Newness (2017)

  • Time: 112 min
  • Genre: Drama | Romance
  • Director: Drake Doremus
  • Cast: Courtney Eaton, Nicholas Hoult, Laia Costa, Danny Huston


In contemporary Los Angeles, two millennials navigating a social media-driven hookup culture begin a relationship that pushes both emotional and physical boundaries.

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  • Ever since his breakout work Like Crazy, director Drake Doremus has been taken with depicting lovers caught in the misery of their own making. He continues the theme in his latest film, Newness, which finds a young couple attempting an open relationship.

    Martin (Nicholas Hoult) and Gabi (Laia Costa) are children of the digital age, both introduced as they swipe through potential hook-ups on the Tinder-like app called Winx. Nicholas is a pharmacist, Gabi is a nurse, though they may as well be a barista and a magazine peddler for their professions are of no consequence in the grand scheme of Doremus’ narrative. They connect via the app and meet each other one night, already having separately been on, and been unsatisfied with, a date earlier that evening, a fact which neither withhold from the other. In fact, their time together is blanketed with an easy candidness and, perhaps for the first time in a long time, sex is not the immediate end game.

    Well, at least not until daybreak. Much to their surprise and delight, the young attractive Angelenos discover that they enjoy spending time with one another and Martin soon asks Gabi to move in with him and all appears copacetic. Until one evening when Martin is too drunk and tired to have sex, causing a rupture in their monogamous bliss. After they both cheat on one another, they renew their dedication to one another but also explore having an open relationship. As long as they’re honest with one another, then they can avoid getting hurt. Yet honesty is not always the best policy, especially when emotions are involved and the two are soon struggling with balancing emotional fidelity against the endless possibilities that are available to them.

    Relationships are hard. This seems to be a revelation renewed with each film for Doremus and, though he and Like Crazy writer Ben York Jones try something different, they have yet to move past territory that they have repeatedly trod upon. It’s an intriguing premise and, as the lovers attempt to merge faithfulness to the constant addiction of the new, the film offers insights into how sex can be an integral pillar, if not the outright engine, of any relationship. However, these observations soon disappear into the ether. It also doesn’t help that Doremus prioritises mood over narrative or characterisation with each passing film. (At times, the film resembles one sustained perfume ad.) Martin and Gabi remain self-centered ciphers and, as charismatic as Hoult and Costa are, their combined appeal doesn’t render their characters’ conflicts any more interesting or worthy of the audience’s investment.

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