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Bloom Up: A Swinger Couple Story Review – Let’s Get Physical

Can soulmates endure swapping?

6 mins read

Bloom Up: A Swinger Couple Story
(Italy, 88 min.)
Dir. Mauro Russo Rouge

 

An orgy of pink balloons vibrantly lights the opening frames of Bloom Up. The sensuous images of lovers Hermes and Betta assume strikingly different tones with these rosy, bouncy, and refreshingly intimate shots that ultimately bookend the film. This swinger’s story transports audiences through the natural and complicated facets of human relationships. Bloom Up is an artfully constructed exploration of polyamory and the fine line between physical satisfaction and emotional attraction. Director Mauro Russo Rouge enjoys access as intimate as intimacy can be by joining Hermes and Betta whilst swinging. The film seeks not to titillate, but to illuminate. The, er, thrust of the matter is that love becomes complicated when more bodies are interlinked.

Bloom Up observes the delicate and affectionate relationship that Hermes and Betta enjoy daily. They’re co-workers as well as lovers, which makes their rapport doubly envious. For two people who’ve been together for years day in and day out, they retain a honeymoon glow. They’re very open and explain in infrequent voiceover how mixing things up keeps their relationship fresh. Hermes and Betta invite the cameras into their pet shop as they playfully stock shelves and trim puppies. All the while, Betta keeps a dating profile open on her laptop at the cash. There’s not a hint of shyness to be found in this pet store. One look in the proper direction and a customer could easily land a good bone.

 

The Art of the Swing

Hermes and Betta explain that swinging is more an art than a science. Most couples who open their relationships, they say, are good people. They’re normal folks who just want to escape the possibility of stale sex. Bloom Up demystifies any preconceptions that audiences with relatively vanilla sex lives might have. Russo Rouge observes no Eyes Wide Shut theatrics—the lone appearance of masks, say, follows the couples’ caveat that access to the parties requires an agreement to avoid filming the faces of participants. People even eat chips at these parties with many of the trysts beginning with snacks and apps. It’s all rather…just like a normal party, except everyone eventually sleeps together. Sometimes the parties are in bedrooms, kitchens, in cars, or outside in the rain, but they generally end up the same.

Instead, Bloom Up observes the rather mundane act of setting up a gangbang, which requires, at least in this case, ample politicking. Hermes and Betta recruit couples and singles alike. The latter prove especially delicate since the singles—exclusively straight men, it seems—are expected to be faceless dildos. Hermes and Betta carefully curate the party to maximize conjugal friction and minimize the damage that could arise when said dildo is attached to a heart or brain. Moreover, they navigate the awkwardness that arises when one partner “doesn’t work” and the other is boring in the sack. The parties, it seems, offer reaffirmation of a good and healthy sex life.

 

Bacchanal vs. Banal

Despite the film’s rather banal observation of setting up a swingers’ mix, this ordinariness makes Bloom Up accessible and illuminating. Moreover, the observations of the preparations contrast sharply with the documentation of the parties themselves. Russo Rouge, who also shot the film, frames the encounters with laudable artistry and consideration. Bloom Up manages to show characters at their most intimate and vulnerable while preserving their anonymity. Delicately framed shots avoid faces and raging erections alike. It’s sexually explicit, mind you, but doesn’t feel remotely pornographic. Instead, the tautness of the framing emphasizes intimacy and pleasure. Moans and slaps mingle with the bass line of the soundtrack, cascading towards moments of great release.

Throughout the film, Hermes and Betta flirt with the implications of the swinger lifestyle. Some of their friends get it and others don’t. (Others don’t even know.) However, a late twist in the film leads to the only straightforward interview that Russo Rouge presents at length. It brings some revelatory confessions about sex, love, and intimacy. Hermes and Betta seem most naked in these fully clothed interviews in which they bare their souls for the camera. While Russo Rouge doesn’t offer anything definitive on the monogamy debate, nor could he with one’s couple’s story, the film invites audiences to ponder the ways in which one tests and fortifies a relationship–and the risk involved with sharing one’s perceived soul mate. While Bloom Up considers the possibility of true polyamory versus the perceived security of monogamy, it makes one thing painfully clear: love endures beyond fleeting trysts and formal relationships.

 

Bloom Up: A Swinger Couple Story opens in Toronto at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema on August 12.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association.

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