There's a rawness to writer/director Mark Lewis's Enthusiastic Sinners that catches you a little bit off guard with its frankness, a refreshing honesty filling the screen as two strangers meet with an undeniable chemistry that doesn't get denied.
The two strangers, a married cop named Bruce Durant (Christopher Heard) and a small town widow named Shelby (Maggie Alexander), cross paths when Bruce responds to reports of shots fired at Shelby's isolated, rural setting where nothing is really wrong except for kids misbehaving.
Bruce and Shelby have chemistry from their opening moments, a sort of unspoken desire for connection and a mutually intuitive notion that they can find that connection with one another.
Initially, that connection comes courtesy of the kind of full-on sexual encounter one rarely finds in cinema anymore. It's not porn, far from it, and it's really not even close to softcore. Yet, it is full-frontal male and female nudity and it possesses a naturalness that Hollywood avoids and even the indie world seldom captures. It's honest, refreshingly filmed without the usual stylistic crap by cinematographer Ryan Balas, himself a damn fine filmmaker with a history of boundary-pushing cinema. Balas is comfortable with people and flaws and intimacy and the human body and he allows all of these things to come to life with his lens, a life amplified by the fine, incredibly engaging performances by Heard and Alexander.
Lewis's script moves quickly, yet it never feels rushed. You may have never had a relationship like this one. You may have never had an affair. You may have never even felt tempted to have an affair. But, you'll still identify with the quick and energized passions that develop between these two and the ways in which those passions are brought to life both physically and emotionally. I get the sense that Lewis knew he was rushing things here, yet that was precisely the point.
Trust me, it works.
There's something special about the way that Heard and Alexander slowly build something special here, their initial chemistry turning into passionate lust then turning into the kind of connection where heart, mind, body, and soul meld themselves together and everything just feels right. They're both attractive performers, but they're richly human and flawed here. It's they're transparency with one another that makes everything that unfolds that much more beautiful to watch.
It's also important to note, of course, that Lewis isn't some one-trick pony writer or director. There is more going on here than simply lust and, I'd dare say, it's just as bold and daring and exciting to watch as those early moments of two raw bodies feeling excited and safe and connected. Amidst that lust, Balas's lens finds the little ways in which these two connect and both Heard and Alexander do far more with their bodies than simply have sex.
There's far more going on here.
Enthusiastic Sinners certainly isn't for everyone. The odds are pretty strong, of course, that you've already decided for yourself if this is a film you should look up and check out. However, if you're willing to surrender yourself to bold cinema and an honest, authentic relationship that engages and entertains then there's no question Enthusiastic Sinners deserves your attention and your support. For more information on Enthusiastic Sinners, visit the film's Facebook page linked to in the credits.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic