Better Than Sex

David Wenham, Suzie Porter. Directed by Jonathan Teplitzky
Running Time: 96 mins
Rated: MA 15+

The last of the finalists of the Australian Film Industry Awards to be nationally released was Better than sex. It would be easy for us to dismiss this film, but it deserves more attention.

Better than Sex is about a casual encounter which holds more than either person expects.

At a party three days before he is due to return home to London, Josh (David Wenham), a freelance wildlife photographer, meets the dress designing Cin (Susie Porter). The drinks kick in and the hormones take over and a night of sex ensues.

Cin and Josh have been here, done this. They were not looking for their life partner. Neither can see what harm a one-night stand can do. But as one day of this torrid affair becomes another, it is clear that sex is not the only thing both of them are seeking.

It would be a mistake to dismiss this film as simply soft pornography or sexual voyeurism. For all of its nudity and numerous sex scenes, Better than sex is true to its title, it an exploration of how the human heart looks for the better and the best. This films clearly argues that anonymous, sexual encounters are, ultimately, a dead end road.

Unfortunately, many things about Better than sex are disappointing. There is not enough drama to sustain long-term interest in this story. It would have been a better short film. After a while no one cares how many times, and where, these two want to have intercourse, so Teplitzky's script settles for cliché-ridden one-liners and to-camera commentaries that are
defined by the gender stereotyping they portray.

There are also gaps in the plot, for though Josh and Cin meet on Monday night, neither them, or any of their friends, seem to work. For three days Cin's girlfriends are on the phone, Josh's mates are glued to watching the sport on TV and the same taxi driver is always outside Cin's flat to ferry everyone around. It is all too contrived.

The highlight of the film is watching Wenham and Porter's excellent acting which brings a poignancy and naturalness that is utterly believable.

Given that many younger people are frightened by the lifelong commitment of marriage and they confuse sex for love, this film is timely and important. The Church has a hard time persuading the younger generation that the right place for sex is in marriage where dignity should be protected and it expresses the commitment, love and trust that gives the best context for sexual expression.

In the most curious of ways Better than sex comes to the same conclusion. Cin and Josh discover you cannot, under any circumstances, 'make love' through sex, you can only express a love and commitment which should already be present.

Let's hope that those who are drawn to see Better than sex have ears to hear its message.

Richard Leonard SJ

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