Eric, a documentary filmmaker, and Paul, a closeted lawyer, meet on a phone sex line. They end up in a relationship and move in together, only to have their relationship to crash and burn due to Paul's addiction to crack.
Keep The Lights On is a new film loosely based on director Ira Sach's life with literary agent Bill Clegg. Firstly, we see Erik (played by Norweigan actor Thure Lindhardt) in 1998 New York City, trying to get a hook up on a phone sex line. After several rejections, he speaks to Paul (played by a very easygoing Zachary Booth), who is ready and willing and available for sex right away.
Erik goes to Paul's flat, and Paul is clearly high on drugs. He and Erik have a hot time together, even though Paul tells Erik that he has a girlfriend and their evening will be a one night stand. However, this turns out not to be a random hookup, and the pair continue to see each other until they decide to move in together. Unfortunately, not everything is as great as it seems.
Paul's drug use is not as occasional as Erik had originally thought, and as time goes on, Erik struggles to deal with Paul's drug addiction, which begins to tear their relationship apart. Paul has a lot of support from friends, and especially from his mother, but he still has a hard time dealing with Paul's problem, though they never seem to lose the sexual charge between them. There is nothing Erik can do to help get Paul off drugs, and Keep the Lights On explores Erik's frustrating 10-year journey of watching Paul self destruct while not wanting to let him go. We can see that Erik puts up with Paul's behaviour because he truly loves him. In real life, Clegg published his own version of some of these same events in a sex and drugs memoir called 'Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man'. Sachs wrote this film (with Mauricio Zacharias), which is his point of view of their relationship, by taking excerpts from the journals he kept over the course of their tumultuous relationship together.
Lindhardt, as Erik, is a revelation, and a real find. His Erik wears his emotions on his sleeve; you can see and feel his pain and anger and his love for Paul. Lindhardt, a straight man, very convincingly plays Erik, right down to the love scenes (and the scenes between him and a Muscle Mary phone hook up).
Keep the Lights On is a little confusing in its timeline, in that the story skips a few years at times, and it is hard to figure out if Erik and Paul are still living together, and what, if anything, has transpired between them during these time gaps. Also, considering how many drugs Paul partakes in, his appearance in the span of 10 years does not change. He looks the same throughout the film, right down to his hairstyle. Also, while on a museum date with Erik, they bump into Paul's girlfriend, however there is no more mention of her in the rest of the film. And unfortunately, the film feels a bit longer than its 102 minutes, and some scenes feel a bit too staged.
But credit is given to Sachs for shooting this film in five weeks, on a low budget, in New York City.