Movies about monogamous hetero couples closing in on middle age and having an intimacy crisis about it are nothing new. Stanley Kubrick trod this ground in Eyes Wide Shut to great effect, and The End of Sex follows a familiar path, albeit in a suburban Canadian setting, which means that instead of a one-night odyssey through Manhattan’s seedy underbelly, we are treated to snowy streetscapes of cookie cutter McMansions outside Toronto. Equally, the portrayal of relationships, sex, and intimacy is much more boring this time around. The End of Sex is directed by Sean Garrity, and written by Jonas Chernik, who also stars as Josh, one half of a long-term couple that has lost that loving feeling.
Josh is married to his childhood camp sweetheart, Emma (Emily Hampshire, deserving better). With their own kids shipped off to camp for the first time—in the dead of winter, Canada, is “winter camp” a thing?—Emma and Josh suddenly realize they have the house to themselves for the first time in years. They gleefully run inside to have sex with the doors open(!), only to not-so-gleefully end up faking their way to an unsatisfying conclusion. Emma and Josh are still in love and have an otherwise great life together, but their sex life is DOA, which starts a chain reaction of arguments and sexploration over the week while their kids are away.
A smarter movie might have something to say about the compromises that come later in life, about what’s most important in a partnership, especially when childrearing is involved, but Sex is not a particularly smart movie. It’s also not an especially funny one. It’s more than a bit meanspirited about adventurous sex, and it’s quite homophobic in its depiction of bisexual women as sex crazed monsters who don’t recognize boundaries. One of Emma’s friends, Wendy (Melanie Scrofano, also deserving better), is bi and confesses to having a crush on Emma before they engage in a threesome with Josh, which really turns into Wendy seducing Emma. And then stalking Emma. And then luring Emma into a trap. I’m sure this was supposed to be funny, and Scrofano comes at it with well-intentioned but misplaced screwball energy, but it comes across as not only reductive, but even homophobic to depict a bi woman unable to control her sexual appetite.
But wait, there’s more! A trip to a sex club results in an awkward encounter for Emma, but also a great deal of kink shaming (another scene also kink shames furries). I’m reminded of the Michael Shannon Christmas Bigfoot Movie, which is completely bonkers but also really sex positive and supportive of consenting adults doing whatever to get off, including furries. The End of Sex could have made different choices here, to depict how people find connection, even reconnection, through adventurous intimate play, but this movie is so f-cking judgy about everything that isn’t missionary sex within a monogamous hetero relationship. It feels like watching a sex comedy made by angry conservatives, and I doubt anyone meant it to come out that way, but that is how it plays.
The End of Sex features a lot of talented people—Lily Gao is great as Josh’s work friend, Kelly, but she, too, is underserved by Chernik’s script, which has no interest in the interiority of the female characters—but it has no fresh ideas or interesting takes, the jokes are thin at best, and the depiction of a couple closing in on middle age and kind of panicking about it is as uninteresting as Emma and Josh’s sex lives. Every opportunity to do something more interesting is shunned, Emma and Josh trudge through the snow, every step closer to death, dooming themselves to a life of bad sex.
The one thing The End of Sex has going for it is Emily Hampshire, who imbues Emma with as much thoughtfulness as possible, working against Chernik’s shallow script. She also wears a really great pair of glasses throughout the movie, which won’t help anyone’s girl crush. But other than making a Pinterest board of Emily Hampshire’s looks in the movie, there is no point to The End of Sex. Just watch Eyes Wide Shut, or the Michael Shannon Christmas Bigfoot Movie, if you want a grownup movie about grownups navigating intimacy in impending middle age.
The End of Sex is in theaters from April 28, 2023.
Attached: Emily Hampshire visits SiriusXM Studios on April 24, 2023 in New York City.