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USA 2002
Directed by
Joe and Harry Gantz
105 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
Ruth Williams
3.5 stars

Sex With Strangers

Synopsis: James and Theresa are the high priest and priestess of swing. They devote their weekends completely to the chase, driving from swinging club to private house party; they wouldn’t want it any other way. Calvin and Sara are new to the game. Whilst the anonymity and emotional detachment suit Calvin, it is obvious that Sara finds "The Lifestyle" less appealing, especially when Julie joins in and the twosome becomes a less-than-happy threesome. Shannon and Gerard have been recommended to try swinging by their marriage counsellor, who suggested it as a possible way of saving their marriage. They have come together in this documentary to tell all and show all. Get ready.

The Gantz brothers have earned themselves a fine reputation for satisfying our desire to delve into the more intimate moments of other people’s lives. In Sex With Strangers they get about as intimate as most people would like them to get. If you’re concerned that you might be in for an overdose of naked bodies copulating, the actual sex scenes are on screen for a measly seven minutes of the 105-minute running time.

A fascination with numbers is the motivation for James and Theresa to aim for a record-breaking weekend. The seduction of five strangers has been their best effort, so during the making of the documentary, they declare they are going for seven. They are so comfortable with this way of talking about their sex life as if they are playing sport or obsessing over a prized collection, that it allows the viewer to put aside any qualms that multiple sex partners could only lead us into disaster.

Things are not so rosy for the other couples. And this is why most of us would prefer to watch others going through it on the screen than dabble in it ourselves. When Shannon starts to wonder if her inability to be satisfied with one party is at all influenced by being abused as a child, it becomes very apparent that this lifestyle has its complications. Sara epitomises the emotional problems inherent in swinging. It appears her main motivation for joining in is to please Calvin - which happens to be the same as Calvin’s motivations. The three males seem happy as long as they are in control. So when James leaves a club because he’s not included as much as he would like, and Calvin is upset when Sara and Julie have sex while he sleeps beside them, we get a taste of how they might behave if things stopped going their way.

It’s a complicated world, one worthy of attention, if only to acknowledge its existence and the fact that it is becoming a popular weekend pursuit in major cities around the world. The film causes you to question your own beliefs and to inquire into whether this is a valid way of solving the stagnation that can occur in long-term relationships. Take your partners and your friends, then go home and compare reactions. It’s not often you have a legitimate reason to talk about sex!




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