Sheets in disarray, two lovers avoiding each other’s gaze; Swedish director David Färdmar opens his feature debut with an emotional bomb blast in a perfect white bedroom. “So you can’t even say it any more,” spits out Adrian (Björn Elgerd). Finally, Hampus (Jonathan Andersson) concedes: “I love you. But there is no more ‘we’.” Leaving the wounds hidden, this is a promisingly imposing opening scene – but Färdmar, as he charts the pair’s breakup, can’t fully flesh it out in a stiff and increasingly laboured LGBT drama.
Initially, it’s a duel for moving-on supremacy. Adrian seems to take the early lead, hooking up with an ex, while Hampus appears the needier, tearfully manipulating him back into bed. But it’s Hampus who strikes out first on a new relationship, while Adrian – resentment weighing behind his eyes – remains hostage to the issues that sabotaged them in the first place. Seeking to give these intimate negotiations epic dimensions, Are We Lost Forever follows in the footsteps of Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue Is the Warmest Colour, sharing the same taste for establishing its naturalistic credentials through explicit sex scenes.
On the other hand, Färdmar struggles to deliver the dramatic money shots. Adrian’s control issues – obvious in the bedroom, and ably conveyed elsewhere by Elgerd’s watchful performance – are made clear. But the film isn’t focused enough to open this trait out into a compelling character study. The often-soapy exchanges in which Adrian masks his hurt before someone reaches across the table mean that the film’s initially well-braced rhythm starts to drag, while Färdmar’s rigid framings are a far cry from Kechiche’s limber entanglement with his lovers. Like its protagonist, Are We Lost Forever can’t break free.
• Are We Lost Forever is released on 22 January on digital platforms.