Thirty-something-year-old gay couple Mark and Jonah’s relationship is already looking shaky when they go out with their best friends to celebrate Mark’s latest birthday. The evening doesn’t quite turn as planned when the friends announce that for the next three months leading up to their wedding they are allowing each other licence to have final flings. The fact that this surprise announcement doesn’t faze Mark at all really concerns Jonah who, worried that Mark who is already slipping away from him, may even want a similar arrangement.
The men have reached a point when there is no affection, very infrequent sex, and they hardly talk at all. Mark is a rarely-employed actor who is struggling with depression which has been exasperated by him changing his medication and the fact that he has just learned that his estranged father has just died back home in Austria. He shares none of this with Jonah to whom he announces that he has signed them both up for couples counseling as a last ditch attempt to see they can in fact revive their relationship.
Mark assures the Therapist that he is committed to making a real attempt to save the situation and that he is determined to fall back in love with Jonah, but as he is never really comfortable with any of the processes, he simply does not participate in any of them. Meanwhile throughout this Jonah seems to fall more in love with Mark convinced that is determined to make an effort so they get back to the happy early days when they first met. A well-meaning attempt at having a ‘date night’ to re-kindle some passion falls flat and even the fact that Mark has peppered their drinks with some ‘ectasy’ cannot save this from being a disaster.
The story unfolds from Mark’s standpoint so Jonah is seen here as a passive player who appears happy enough for his world to revolve around that of Marks. He on the other hand gets more and more distraught when he realises that he has no control over his feelings, and even if he had wanted to fall back in love with Jonah, he was totally incapable of doing so. By not being able to share all the other issues and conflicts in his life with Jonah (or anybody else) he is subconsciously hiding behind them and letting them dictate the path he will take. At the end of the day it boils down not just to the fact that Mark cannot love Jonah, but crucially that he simply cannot love himself. When love becomes such hard work, then it probably is time to let go.
This engaging and highly intimate wee film is the work of actor turned writer/director Philipp Karner who stars as Mark in what I can only assume is all based on his own life. Karner treads carefully to ensure we sympathize with both of his protagonists as he touches several of the nerves of not just them but all of us who have ever been somewhat bewildered when we have fallen in and out of love. He also puts in a very creditable performance as the troubled Mark which is matched (with great chemistry too) from that of a very sympathetic one from Denver Milord as Jonah.
‘Say It Like You Mean It’ may not say anything devastatingly new (but then what movies do?) but what it does say, it does so in a very engaging way that has you invested in this relationship’s path even though you know where it will lead well before the final credits roll.