TIFF Capsule Review: Gerontophilia

Gerontophilia is a tender love story between Lake and Mr. Peabody; they are soulmates who seem to have been destined for each other. The problem is Lake (played by the beautiful Pier-Gabriel Lajoie) is 18 years old while Mr. Peabody (portrayed with grace and elegance by Walter Borden) is 81. Lake discovers his love, or lust, of older men (and I mean, older) after he gets a bit too excited giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a guy significantly his senior. He immediately quits this job and soon gets employed at a nursing home with the help of his mother. There, he finds himself surrounded by his most prized love (or sex) objects – older men. And there he meets the sick but spirited Mr. Peabody. Mr. Peabody may be dying but he is full of life and experiences – and these very traits attract the naive but well-meaning Lake.

“Age does not matter,” a lot of people say but, in fact, it does. This is the main conflict-generating engine of the new film by Canadian provocateur Bruce LaBruce. Conflict between Lake and his girlfriend. Conflict between Lake and his mother. Conflict between Lake and the nursing home. The parallels may be simplistic but they are powerfully effective. Surprisingly, Gerontophilia does not heavily feature explicit sex scenes, blood and gore fests and hardcore gay orgies like LaBruce’s previous films. But before anyone accuses the director of losing his edge, he actually peppers the film with humorous LaBruce touches. From the tongue-in-cheek poster of Gandhi in Lake’s bedroom, to the recurring visual motif of Catholic iconography, to the hilariously amazing scene that pays homage to the nude drawing sequence in James Cameron’s Titanic, LaBruce reminds his viewers that sincerity and playfulness are not mutually exclusive.

Ultimately, Gerontophilia’s toned-down and accessibly mainstream approach may be deliberate, so that a very sensitive issue like this (i.e. same-sex, May-December romances) gets the broadest possible exposure. More people need to know about this. More people need to be talking about this. Personally, I cannot think of any other film since Harold and Maude that captures the humanism and sincerity of this type of unconventional love story.