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Review: The End of Sex – “Fresh and charming”

Relationships go through many natural transitions.  In the beginning, hormones are running high.  That honeymoon phase is full of passion, a time when you just can’t get enough of each other.  But, years into a relationship the hormones shift to something that encourages attachment and increases your bond.  This might decrease the urge, and when you add in things like everyday stressors, kids, and exhaustion, sex with your committed partner might get put on the back burner.  This is what plagues Emma (Emily Hampshire) and Josh (Jonas Chernick) in The End of Sex.

With conflicting emotions, Emma and Josh send their two young daughters off to camp.  It’s the first time they’ve had the house to themselves and they’re at a loss for what to do.  The girls are clearly the centre of their world and Emma’s best suggestion is perhaps just driving to where they take gymnastics and sitting in the parking lot.  But the two eventually remember that this is the perfect time to reignite the romance and “make some sex.”  The awkward way Josh says this emulates how awkward the two feel in the bedroom, their sense of sexual freedom all of a sudden making them feel trapped in the realization that their sex life is… non-existent.

With a week before their kids return, the pair is determined to figure out how to get back to where they were and return to the passion they once shared.  They try taking ecstasy, they try going to a sex club (leading to a hilariously uncomfortable cameo by Colin Mochrie).  The pair are willing to do pretty well anything to bring that physical connection back to the bedroom.  But through all their adventures, despite the best of intentions, it’s possible forcing the issue might just drive them further apart.

Director Sean Garrity brings to the screen a somewhat less conventional romantic comedy, one that starts with a couple whose relationship is solid and committed.  They’ve already found their perfect match, they just have to believe in it.  Star Jonas Chernick also wrote the screenplay, and has collaborated with Garrity on other projects like 2012’s My Awkward Sexual Adventure and 2015’s Borealis, both of which also starred Hampshire.  This trio clearly has a comfort and chemistry working with one another which translates to an easygoing, enjoyable film that revels in its cringe-worthy moments.

Those that know Emily Hampshire best from her role as Stevie in the popular Canadian comedy Schitt’s Creek, will be happy to see the actor in fine form here as she navigates the emotional turns of Emma with both empathy and impeccable comedic timing.  Chernick’s Josh is elevated from him being an atypical leading man, he’s the one in the relationship that seems to hold back the most, the more timid and reluctant to push boundaries.  The pair, having worked together multiple times, have an ease with one another that makes their character’s long-term relationship all the more believable.

Chernick’s screenplay allows for the characters to have ample time to explore their frustrations during the film’s 86-minute run time.  And, for the most part, the dialogue is realistic with Emma and Josh seeming like people you might know, talking how real people speak.  It makes them more familiar, and the audience more empathetic.  While there are a few cute moments using on-screen graphics for laughs, Garrity largely just lets the script do the work, leaning into the characters, letting them drive the film forward.  The pacing isn’t always perfect, but its never dull.

The End of Sex is sure to speak to those in long-term relationships, especially with kids, who will find a lot to relate to in Emma and Josh’s plight.  Its story is honest, and in a society that seems often obsessed with sex, whether in films on TV, or advertisements (even in M&M’s!) it’s refreshing to see sex discussed in this way, where it’s approached with vulnerability.  Relationships evolve, and there are so many things that can make them successful and intimate, even if the physicality ebbs and flows.  Sure there are plenty of sexy and comedic moments in The End of Sex, but its approach seems fresh and charming, making it a welcome entry to the genre.

The End of Sex premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2022.  It will see limited release in theatres April 28th.

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