Surplus of sex leaves little time for plot in ‘Below Her Mouth’

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Erika Linder (left) and Natalie Krill in “Below Her Mouth.” | GUNPOWDER & SKY

The French coming-of-age film “Blue Is the Warmest Color” caused a stir in 2013 with its extended sex scenes between two young women. But anyone who bought a ticket purely for the titillation factor was likely disappointed by the three-hour running time and, you know, all that talk.

Now the perfect antidote comes in the form of “Below Her Mouth,” a Canadian indie that dispenses with the verbal foreplay. This lesbian romance from director April Mullen opens with a graphic sex scene and serves up more of the same for the bulk of its 92 minutes.

The film’s all-female production team may insulate it from the protestations about “the male gaze” that dogged “Blue” director Abdellatif Kechiche. But while “Below Her Mouth” is no doubt some classy-looking porn, it’s a pretty lousy movie, because all that sex leaves precious little time to develop character, plot or thematic depth.

The one saving grace is the presence of Erika Linder as Dallas, a Swedish immigrant to Toronto who spends her days “stripping and nailing” roof tiles and her nights doing the same to any hot young thing who says yes at the local girl bar. But when she meets Jasmine (Natalie Krill), a fashion editor who doth protest too much that she’s straight, they begin an affair that turns out to be more than just physical. Eventually.

Linder came to fame as one of the first female models to make a living walking the runway in menswear. It’s hard to tell from a single performance if she has any real range as an actor, but she is a riveting screen presence here, with a brooding androgynous charisma suggesting internal conflicts that the sparse, often cliched dialogue never brings to the fore.

One might charitably call this cinematic subtlety, except it’s really a case of sacrificing storytelling for sex. Standing sex, bathtub sex, public sex, solo sex, tool-assisted sex and just a hint of S&M. Anything but gratuitous sex, because it can’t be gratuitous when it’s the entire point of the movie.

Anybody have a cigarette?

Kerry Lengel, USA TODAY Network

Gunpowder & Skypresents a film directed by April Mullen and written by Stephanie Fabrizi. No MPAA rating. Running time: 92minutes. Opens Friday at Facets Cinematheque.

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