Recently CNN reported on a study that claimed cuckolding can be positive for some couples. Their reporting of it was roundly mocked on line, with one twitter user dubbing CNN the “Cuckolding News Network” while another called it, “a brilliant idea for strengthening your relationship in time for Valentine’s Day!” Validity of the study aside, “Permission,” a new movie starring Rebecca Hall, explores the same territory.
Will (Dan Stevens) and Anna (Hall) have been sweethearts since high school. Now, on the cusp of her thirtieth birthday he’s about to pop the question. First though she drunkenly proposes they sleep around a bit. Not break up, but get some life experience before they settle down. At first they encourage one another in a bit of harmless fun but as their polyamorous relationships start to deepen uncomfortable realities are revealed.
Director-writer Brian Crano takes a thoughtful and mature approach to the material but his delivery of it feels scattershot. The first hour has an effervescence to it that disappears as the various story threads wrap up. In the beginning it feels sexy and dangerous but as Anna’s relationship with musician Dane (Francois Arnaud) and Will’s fling with divorcée Lydia (Gina Gershon) heat up questions arise. How far can you stray even with permission?
The final third contains the film’s most essential truths. In a dramatic shift in tone from the first hour, the harsh realisms of this arrangement appear. Also effective is a subplot about Anna’s brother Hale (David Joseph Craig), his boyfriend Reece (Morgan Spector) and their desire (or not) to have a baby. It is heartfelt and could definitely been given more screen time.
“Permission” is easily more interesting than CNN’s treatment of the same material. Although uneven it is an interesting look at the responsibilities that come with adult relationships.