Writer/director Brian Crano’s Permission has a limited theatrical release timed around Valentine’s Day, opening in select theaters on February 9, 2018. However, it’s definitely not the film you want to spend what’s advertised as the most romantic day of the year attending with a date unless you’re totally sure of your significant other’s commitment to your relationship.
Crano’s romantic drama focuses on a long-term relationship between Will (Dan Stevens) and Anna (Rebecca Hall). Will’s about to pop the question when a close friend, drunk and unfiltered, tosses a wrench in his plans by suggesting maybe their relationship isn’t as terrific as they believe it to be. Since neither have ever slept with anyone else (and the sex has gotten routine and a bit bland), maybe they only think each other is their perfect match because they’ve never sampled anything else from the sexual buffet.
The big question’s left un-popped as Will and Anna come up with a plan that allows them to discover what it is they’ve been missing by never dating anyone else. Believing it’s best to have a short-term open relationship to confirm their feelings for each other, Will and Anna dip their toes in the dating world and, unsurprisingly, quickly get nibbles.
Anna and Will give each other permission to sleep around, with the caveat that they remain boyfriend/girlfriend and tell each other about their flings. Will and Anna believe exploring their desires outside of their relationship can make fresh something that’s comfortable and known. It’s what they consider to be a very adult, very logical proposal, yet obviously it’s one fraught with potential landmines.
Writer/director Crano explores the treacherous path this couple who’ve been sweethearts since childhood take as they shake off their monogamous ways, step out of their safety zones, and explore sexual encounters that disrupt their commitment to a lifelong partnership. The idea of sex without repercussions might sound like a healthy option in theory but put to practice it’s like taking a gigantic wrecking ball to a relationship.
Watching Anna and Will ride emotional roller coasters as they test this unorthodox solution to what, in reality, wasn’t a known problem is a fascinating experience. Crano’s script is smart in its approach to how the longtime couple react in the aftermath of each other’s sexual encounters. The reactions are genuine, the situations are believable, and the performances of Permission’s entire ensemble are outstanding.
Dan Stevens and Rebecca Hall are terrific as a couple whose decision to explore other sexual partners to solidify their commitment to each other goes south, fast. Stevens and Hall have solid chemistry, and their separate journeys into a sexual freedom are heartbreaking because their relationship has drawn us in. Stevens and Hall are so good together that it’s painful to watch their characters pull the relationship apart.
Permission isn’t cynical, but it does lean more toward drama than comedy in its approach to answering a complicated and provocative question. Cranos throws in enough light moments to keep the film from growing too dark while successfully avoiding any romantic comedy tropes. Strong performances and an interesting premise combine to make Permission an entertaining adult romance.
Running Time: 96 minutes
Release Date: February 9, 2018
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Good Deed Entertainment