Despite the '70s arthouse softcore vibe, there's little in the way of sex and/or nudity in this deeply felt BDSM romance. Instead, writer-director Peter Strickland makes the viewer squirm in the presence of naked emotional intimacy. Cynthia is a gently aging entomologist; Evelyn is her young and willing slave. Or at least, she plays one during their routine fantasy scenario (emphasis on routine). The film wastes no time in revealing the complicated power dynamics at work (or should that be “in play”?) in their relationship, and a botched birthday present — Evelyn wanted a bed with a storage compartment, but wound up with a basic lockbox instead — begins a chain of tiny but telling events that test the nature of the couple’s bond. Unfortunately, the film’s chief crisis comes at the cost of believability, hinging as it does on a bondage furniture saleswoman’s willingness to casually disclose the identity of her other clients. Still, it’s an impressive achievement: the rendering of a private and extremely particular world in terms that any lover will understand. The great question: are they together for each other’s sake, or for their own? (2014) — Matthew Lickona
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