Directed by: Zachary Wigon
Distributed by: Neon
Written by Jeff Sparks
Pairing two great actors together is something that people always want to see, even if the end result is a failed experiment. Margaret Qualley and Christopher Abbott certainly fit under the category of great actors. In “Sanctuary” Abbott plays Hal, a businessman who is taking over the role of CEO after his father handed him down the role upon his passing. On the outside, he’s a confident leader but behind closed doors he spends his time with Qualley’s Rebecca, an escort who specializes as a dominatrix. When Hal tells her he will no longer be needing her services, she demands half of his salary to keep quiet about her relationship with him. The entirety of the film takes place in one location, the hotel room where they meet for their sessions. With the subject matter, you might think the film would be graphic in its depiction of sex, but it’s actually not, which is to the film’s detriment in some ways. There aren’t many films that focus on characters or situations that are based solely on the subject of sexuality. Some that do though are sometimes graphic, often in a shocking way. For example, Gaspar Noé’s “Love” focused on sentimental sexuality in relationships. While the film didn’t intend to be erotic, it certainly was graphic in its depiction of sex, which is part of what Noé set out to do.
Like “Love,” “Sanctuary” doesn’t focus on the erotic aspect of sex but takes a different approach. Unlike “Love” though, it nearly removes the physical element entirely and examines the mental side of the relations between these two characters. It’s certainly a different approach but after ninety-six minutes of the two characters playing mind games in one location, it does become a bit tiring. Even with these two great actors, neither of their performances are going to make my best-of-the-year list this December. Neither is bad, but it feels like they’re turned up a bit too high. The two seem to be trying their hardest to deliver a stage-play-type experience. Perhaps that’s what the director wanted though, with the film being one location and all. Like with the film itself, it’s an interesting approach, but if I wanted to see heightened theatre performances I would go rent a play from National Theatre.