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Alex Liu’s a man on a mission: to make himself and his fellow Americans more comfortable with their sexuality. How’s this going to happen? Through this gem of a feature-length documentary, as A Sexplanation takes him on a journey to release the shackles.
Like many kids growing up in the States, Liu was conditioned to think that sexual repression isn’t all that bad. That train of thought is evident throughout the movie, but never painfully so.
That’s the beauty of A Sexplanation. Although it deals with matters that are deadly serious at times, it’s always tackled in a light-hearted fashion. This is, in effect, the sex education Liu never had – and learning should be fun, right? Although it never comes anywhere close to taking itself too seriously, it wastes no time in attacking modern America and how conservative it is on all matters sexual.
This makes you grateful that here in the UK we have a programme like Naked Attraction. When you also consider that bastion of controversial 90s TV, Eurotrash, you realise it was providing an important service of sorts. A Sexplanation makes the good ol’ U.S. of A seem even more backward, for want of a better word. On second thoughts, that’s absolutely the right word to use… I feel more liberated already.
And doubtless Liu, who’s effectively providing a public service of his own here, would agree. In doing so, candid discussions with people from many walks of life unfold, with many questions posed. Is starting sex education earlier in schools better in the long-term? Why should there be an element of shame involved? This is an explorative study and a very authoritative one at that.
But unlike Supersize Me, which is a film along similar lines despite the radically different subject matter, this was made because the filmmaker had a point to prove to himself as well. At the age of 36, Liu has decided to confront his conditioned inner fear of all matters sexual, which underpins the bravery of the piece. Where A Sexplanation goes a little wrong on occasion is that it quantifies sexual literacy in terms of anatomical knowledge instead of individual attitude. Having said that, it’s a wonderfully educational movie, illustrating studies and theories that you didn’t even know existed.
One other negative is that pornography – at both the lighter and more sinister ends of the spectrum – is the area that has by far the most of the two-hour running time devoted to it, and unnecessarily so. Overall though, the editing does well to add to the film’s freshness and humour. Perhaps most importantly of all, the film leaves you in no doubt as to the importance of sex to our mental well-being and relations with others.
As the title of this review says, A Sexplanation entertains and informs. That’s never an easy assignment, but filmmaking that’s as courageous as it is comedic always helps.