Movie Review: ‘Permission’

by | Feb 6, 2018 | Featured, Movie Reviews, Movies | 0 comments

Review by Jacquelin Hipes

If you’ve only been romantically involved with one person your entire life, is it possible to know that they’re your perfect mate? It’s a question posed to Anna (Rebecca Hall), in crasser terms, over a birthday dinner shared with her boyfriend Will (Dan Stevens) and fellow couple fellow couple Reece (Morgan Spector) and Hale (David Joseph Craig). She and Will have shared every relationship “first” with one another but, after 10 years together, the drunken suggestion that they may be missing out scuttles Will’s plans for a romantic proposal that night. Instead they decide, with no shortage of trepidation, to experiment with other partners.

On their first night out as pseudo-singles, Anna makes an instant connection with Dane (François Arnaud), a singer-songwriter whose artistic leanings appeal to the music theory doctoral student. When she returns home, happy and confused by that happiness, neither she nor Will quite know how to handle themselves. But, shockingly, they persevere. When an attractive divorcee (Gina Gershon) propositions Will, he too experiences the thrill of no-strings-attached sex. Neither of these new paramours knows about the agreement; both serve as unwitting guinea pigs to Will and Anna’s experimentation, which inevitably creates a bit of a mess once feelings come into play.

Meanwhile, Heron and Hale struggle with their own crossroads, a bit of karmic reckoning for Heron’s drunk philosophizing. While Heron feels content in the life they’ve built, Hale becomes consumed with the idea of starting a family. His acquaintance with a single dad (Jason Sudeikis) who frequents the same dog park only exacerbates the feelings of loneliness and incompletion.

Permission takes a hard, unflinching look at the short-comings of true love. In youth, affection and devotion can cover up all manner of sins in favor of preserving the comfortable status quo. When life demands answers to headier questions, however, it doesn’t always hold up on its own. But cynics should check their enthusiasm: writer/director Brian Crano forgoes the wholesale lambasting of true love in favor of a more nuanced look at the realities of compatibility, affection, and sex.

Stevens and Hall find the perfect chemistry as the curious couple: lived-in, familiar, and desperately willing to maintain trust. As the story develops, Castillo and Craig become their foils. Where Anna and Will evaluate their relationship by talking about it (arguably in greater detail than either would prefer), Heron and Hale cling to the idea of a healthy relationship by not talking about any of their concerns.

But Permission isn’t concerned so much with relationships as it is the people who form those bonds. Although the means are unconventional, Will and Anna both grow into themselves by experiencing the rites of passage many others went through a decade earlier. The distinction between wanting a life partner and needing one is a grown-up question to ask, and Permission answers it in an equally grown-up way. It’s messy, and complicated, and much of the humor comes from the unavoidable discomfort of reality. Sometimes the answers we want aren’t the answers we find, but there’s a great deal of bravery to be found in asking the big questions out loud…once we give ourselves permission to do so.