Permission (NR)

Comedy 96 min. February 9, 2018
By Serena Donadoni
The American accents of former Cambridge University flatmates Rebecca Hall and Dan Stevens are a thing of beauty. There's a softness to their voices, and the slight uplift of hesitancy at the end of sentences. When their characters Anna and Will chirp "I love you" during frequent (if routine) sex, it sounds apologetic as much as encouraging. It's easy to see what drew the adventurous actors, known for buttoned-up British period pieces, to the messy emotional exploration of Brian Crano's Permission, but their glowing performances are contained in a wan road-not-taken drama.

Anna and Will are the kind of generic gentrifiers from everywhere America who arrive in Brooklyn to compose the unwritten history of classical music and handcraft wood furniture that honors its elegant grain. They're also throwbacks: mate-for-life romantics who enter their 30s as each other's one and only sexual partner. A dinner conversation with an equally committed gay couple, Anna's brother (David Joseph Craig) and Will's business partner (Morgan Spector), seeds their minds with what-ifs, and begins the splintering of solid relationships.

This earnest, deadly serious character study has few moments of levity, mostly provided by an arch Gina Gershon, still as intoxicating and seductive as she was in Bound. Crano (A Bag of Hammers) creates a gorgeous environment for beautiful people, and his fondness for overhead shots isn't the traditional God's-eye view, but a way to create stylish compositions out of splayed vulnerability. His characters commit the sin of complacency, and he dishes out commensurate punishment.
Brian Crano Rebecca Hall, Dan Stevens, Gina Gershon, Francois Arnaud, Morgan Spector, Bridget Everett, David Joseph Craig, Sarah Steele, Jason Sudeikis Brian Crano Good Deed Entertainment

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