Shortbus John Cameron Mitchell

Much has been made of the explicit sex in this, John Cameron Mitchell’s follow-up to Hedwig and the Angry Inch, but it never seems gratuitous or meant to shock. Indeed, the sense of the film is weary and confused rather than unthinkingly married to the sensational.

Mitchell brings together a variety of hung-up characters, including a gay couple both named Jamie (Paul Dawson and PJ DeBoy), a non-orgasmic couples counsellor named Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee) and a burnt-out dominatrix who goes by the name of Severin (Lindsay Beamish) to a salon/orgy party hosted by Justin Bond. There they put their erotic and emotional limits to the test: the Jamies hook up with third number Ceth (Jay Brennan) for reasons only one of them knows for sure, while Sofia flirts with the idea of non-monogamy and Severin just wishes for a house and a normal life.

The characters — all formed with input from the actors — seem created from the ground up and lack the pointlessly bitchy repartee that mars so many pseudo-indie dramedies. In fact, the film seems like a riposte to all of those "relationship” movies that want to say so much but barely scratch the surface. Shortbus is a portrait of people hurting and acting out, and the results are as wrenching as they are funny.

Unlike his peers, Mitchell seems interested in actual human behaviour instead of sitcom versions of same and the ways in which people seek shelter from emotions they barely comprehend. But though there’s a constant stream of tortured confessions, the film feels liberating; it’s an airing of grievances that will make you feel like you got something off your chest as much as the characters. (Th!nk)