Celluloid Reflections: The Look of Love

The Look of Love is a new film that was shown at Sundance London last night. It goes on general release this weekend. The film explores the life of Paul Raymond who at one point was the richest man in England. I’m not really clear who the film is aimed at. Mr Raymond derived his fortune from strip clubs in Soho and pornography, the film is most certainly an “18” and many (perhaps most) will find the admittedly “probably necessary” nudity (given the context) rather excessive. Then again, part of the purpose of the film is to help reveal how our attitudes towards sex have altered over the last 40 years or so. However, it is not a film about sex, nor is it a sex film and whilst it has comedic moments and a plethora of current comedians  in the cast (including the lead Steve Coogan) it isn’t much of a comedy either. It is much more of a biopic of a man that “had it all” but actually had nothing, rather more of a tragedy.

The main plot of the story reveals fragile relationships, a deeply dysfunctional family and an inability to draw boundaries. We see a disturbing portrayal of his relationship with his daughter, which at best might be described as “unhelpful” and at worst, deeply irresponsible. There is a sense of self-importance “we’re not normal people” and a disconnection with the reality of real relationships. A long-lost son “managed”, another son bullied and a daughter indulged, who dies of a drug overdose (I’m not giving the plot away – opening scene). A habit that was used, as is often the case, to dull the pain of reality. If the film is even vaguely accurate, Mr Raymond was certainly someone that was very confused about love and relationship. Materially successful, but emotionally bankrupt, I assumed the title of the film ” The Look of Love” is deliberately ironic.

Whilst Paul Raymond’s life may have been somewhat extreme, it is a reminder (not a new one) that few people go to their deathbed, wishing that they had spent more time at the office. To be known is to be human. Money is little more than a tool, it is not real security and it certainly is no compensation for a lack of relationship. A good financial planner doesn’t just point out that you will die one day, but will help prompt you to reflect on what you value and want from life and then build a plan around your values. Being the richest man in Britain is little more than a game, in the end all the kings and pawns go back into the box.

Dominic Thomas: Solomons IFA