Remember Hall Pass, an awful 2011 comedy about a couple of guys who are given a week off from marriage so they can sleep with other women—and somehow that will fix their relationships? If you’ve forgotten, I apologize for the reminder. I bring it up because Permission is basically the good version of that. It’s less focused on raunchy jokes and more focused on the people who are involved in the situation, and what drives them.
It stars Rebecca Hall and Dan Stevens as Anna and Will, who have been together for so long that they’ve never even had sex with anyone else. We can see how their relationship has gotten stale, but they don’t. At a birthday dinner, Anna’s brother, Hale (David Joseph Craig) makes a drunken suggestion that both of them should sleep with other people, because that’s important before settling down. Over the next couple of days, the couple mulls it over and eventually decides to give it a go.
The B-story sees Hale and his boyfriend, Reece (Morgan Spector), have their relationship tested as Reece starts to have a desire to have a child, something that Hale is diametrically opposed to, for a variety of reasons. This is emphasized further when Reece meets a father in the local park, who is played by Jason Sudeikis. Sudeikis starred in Hall Pass, so there’s how I’m making that early reference pay off.
Permission goes back and forth between these two stories, ultimately coming to the same conclusion about the characters within them. You’ll see when you watch it. I won’t spoil what happens, but it’s very fitting given what we wind up learning about these people.
And they do feel like people, not caricatures, which for a movie like this, with this subject matter and level of comfort and intimacy, is important. Writer-director Brian Crano and his cast have done a wonderful job of fleshing out these characters, giving them realistic personalities, situations, and feelings in the process. The acting is great, the writing is solid, and the story is compelling.
Permission winds up being a movie where the big payoff come from what it has to say about its situation and what it shows about the characters it presents to us over its running time. And all of that feels fresh, logical, and important. It’s not a boring movie, even though it’s not terribly complicated—in terms of plot, anyway; from an emotional and thematic perspective, it’s rich and textured. It’s an interesting and engaging take on relationships and, well, getting older and what we want out out of life once that happens.
Conclusion: Permission is a rich and layered movie about adults and their desires.
Recommendation: If it sounds interesting to you, Permission is absolutely worth your time.