Published May 05, 2009Ironically titled, wholly engrossing and thoroughly depressing, Love at the Twilight Motel may very well be the most engaging, insightful and tragically human doc at this year's Hot Docs festival, weaving first-person interviews of a confessional nature together into a slowly building criticism of the myth of romantic love. Sex as a functional and almost artificial mode of emotional and, sadly, financial sustainability for those disconnected from traditional social trajectories ties these stories together in a way that's difficult to shrug off and forget.
Filmed entirely at a motel in Little Havana, where rates are hourly and discretion is assured, the doc features sex trade subjects to the tune of a zoftig, over-the-hill call girl, along with a drug-addicted mother/prostitute. Also featured is an unhappy wife having an affair with a co-worker she isn't even attracted to, a Cuban gigolo and a cheating, heroin-shooting husband that claims to love his wife, despite the fact that he sticks his unit in anything with a pulse.
Alison Rose handles her subjects without judgment, observing them as they initially claim indifference to their sexual proclivities, which inevitably leads to revelations of abuses, disappointment, antipathy and a generalized inability to trust. Of particular interest is the drug-addicted prostitute, whose tale of compounded insecurities and exploitation is both heartbreaking and nauseating, given how sincerely she appears to want her life, and the life of her child, to have a happy ending.
Cultural anthropologists may find interest in the fortress-like structure of the Miami motel and its private staircases in relation to dominant social concepts of human sexuality and the nuclear family. One can only assume that inherent Judeo-Christian anxieties surrounding all things carnal, aside from the banal act of reproduction, ultimately subjugate and alienate anyone falling outside of the box, forcing self-disgust, embarrassment and an ever-deteriorating image in the face of expectations. (NFB)