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JIHLAVA 2018

Review: Until Porn Do Us Part

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- Jorge Pelicano's fourth feature-length documentary tells the story of a middle-aged mother coming to terms with her son becoming a gay porn star

Review: Until Porn Do Us Part

Until Porn Do Us Part [+see also:
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, the fourth feature-length documentary by multi-hyphenate Portuguese filmmaker Jorge Pelicano (Suddenly My Thoughts Halt), is a touching and often poignant observational film about a mother who is having a hard time coping with the fact that her son is a gay porn star. Having just world-premiered in Ji.hlava's Opus Bonum competition, the documentary uses a very intimate set-up to tell a story about a traditional family, communication in the age of the internet, and ultimately, acceptance and forgiveness.

When we first meet 64-year-old Eulalia in her apartment, she is sitting at the computer, going through messages on Facebook and looking at the profile of her son Sydney, or "Fostter Riviera, the First Gay Porn Star from Portugal". We soon learn that she has accepted the fact that her son is gay, and even that he is involved in porn – but that she cannot forgive him for not telling her this himself, nor stand his increasingly raunchy (or, as she puts it, "dirty") videos and photos. But she can’t not look at his Facebook profile every day, as this is the only connection she has left with Sydney, who has stopped replying to her messages and no longer answers her calls. So there are many tears, a great deal of sadness and prayers to her saint, Santa Rita.

Eulalia may be conservative and religious, but she is not uneducated or stupid. She is also not a lonely woman – there is a husband we barely see, she gets visited by her family, and she is especially happy to see her daughter, whom Sydney often goes to when he needs someone to talk to. Eulalia also works, as a pollster, and a bittersweet scene sees her going to a gay club and, after making initial contact, ending up polling one of the young, hip patrons.

Halfway through the film, we go to Germany, where we find Sydney preparing to shoot a porn scene. From this moment on, the movie opens up to his perspective (though not nearly in as much detail as when we were getting to know his mother), with more exterior scenes, and a dynamic development as the prodigal son returns to his homeland to take part in a wild live show at the Eros Porto fair. And his mum intends to see him perform.

Pelicano's narrative structure takes the viewer from initially feeling very sad for Eulalia, to understanding and eventually liking both her and her son. It also tackles a more complex and ambiguous combination of themes, from traditional family to modern communication and technology, and how they influence once clearly defined social roles. The question arises of how a woman like Eulalia would have reacted to her son's blasphemous, immoral behaviour just 15 years earlier, when gay rights did not enjoy such universal social support, porn was less obviously permeating the internet, and Facebook was yet to be unleashed on the world. Another equally important question is whether Sydney would have felt as confident moving to Germany and becoming Fostter Riviera.

Until Porn Do Us Part is a structurally disciplined, emotionally engaging and thematically insightful film that deserves to be seen outside of late-night slots at documentary festivals. It was produced by Portuguese company Até ao Fim do Mundo.

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