In terms of thematic content, Concussion provides us with the familiar seven year itch dynamic. A financially comfortable, PTA attending, yoga partaking suburban couple with two children in tow appear on the surface to be in a state of perfect marital bliss, whilst underneath bubbles sexual dissatisfaction, mid life crisis and all the other fun stuff that we can only sit and wait for in our own years to come. What is less familiar to a mainstream cinema audience, however, is the fact that this particular marital situation occurs between two women.
The film begins with protagonist Abby Abelman (Robin Weigert) receiving a rather strong blow to the head thanks to her son and a loosely handled baseball, and in what I feel is intended to be much more metaphorical than literal, this concussion awakens in her a willingness to break from the boundaries of domesticity that she and wife Kate appear to have fallen in to. This, rather swiftly and seamlessly, leads to Abby entering in to the world of high end female escorting. Initially as a client and later as a successful escort herself, the audience are shown a series of set pieces detailing each of the women with whom Abby engages in solicitation, and a very conscious decision is taken here by the filmmakers to portray a diverse array of women from obese, to young, to old, to ethnic and it is made clear to us that Abby is very good at her new found employment. The majority of these encounters are displayed in a sexually graphic nature, but what elevates the film above any kind of erotic exploitation are the interesting ‘feminine’ quirks that are implemented. For example, after her first dalliance with a prostitute, Abby is shown scouring the bathroom floor for any stray tell tale hairs, a device so often used in lesser film plots to catch out a scheming husband. She also insists on meeting potential clients for coffee before any sexual encounter takes place, and this addition of conversation and non-erotic interaction between the characters helps to add a certain integrity to the piece, a different and interesting perspective compared to the so many overly masculine representations of solicitation that are known in cinema. These activities carry on with no apparent consequence for a good thirty minutes or so, until the point in which Abby’s personal and ‘professional’ lives become unavoidably intertwined, as the alluring Sam Bennet (Maggie Siff), fellow ‘soccer mom’ and PTA member, turns up for coffee.
What follows is the expected. A double life becomes impossible to juggle and Abby must consider what is more important to her, a life of stranger sex or a return to the ‘lesbian bed death’ of her marriage to Kate. As for the cast, Robin Weigert is captivating in the lead role, being successful in making somewhat likeable a character who is, at base level, a chronic adulterer. Julie Fain Lawrence, as wife Kate, skilfully portrays the ‘not tonight darling’ model of spouse that we are so familiar with in film and Maggie Siff as Sam does her duty by being the exact opposite. The cast of ‘serviced’ women including Laila Robins and Daria Feneis all help to add purpose to the proceedings, as through their coffee and pillow talk we learn more and more about Abby and become invested through their encounters.
Overall, Concussion is an interesting character piece that confronts the themes of infidelity and marital strife in a relatively refreshing manner. A degree of criticism could be levelled at the ease of which the main character manages to find highly paid, danger free employment, perhaps a slightly naive perspective on the way that the majority of sex work operates, but if I’m honest it is an area of which I know very little about. The lesbian theming of the picture does not for one second feel like a cheap shot or exploitative decision to include gratuitous love scenes, but rather the way that Concussion plays out like any number of similar films with a heterosexual core is indicative of the message that no matter your sexual orientation, marriage is a challenge, life is tough, and sometimes you make bad, bad decisions.