She’s Lost Control is a classic tale. Cis-gendered, able-bodied, conventionally attractive straight white boy meets cis-gendered, able-bodied, conventionally attractive straight white girl. He’s afraid of intimacy, she’s warm and open and determined to fix him. On paper, writer-director Anja Marquardt’s first feature-length outing sounds like it’s dealing in typical Hollywood rom-com trope, save for one detail: Ronah (Brooke Bloom) is a sex surrogate, and Johnny (Marc Menchaca) is one of her patients.
Sex surrogacy in the movies made its biggest splash in 2012’s Helen Hunt-fronted The Sessions, portrayed as a “respectable” variety of sex work that guides those with intimacy- and sexually-related issues through their psychological, physiological, and physical barriers to achieve more emotionally satisfying relationships. (I say “respectable” because God forbid a film portrays a woman who decides to engage in this type of work with any intentions or reasons other than helping people.) While She’s Lost Control starts out promisingly enough, dealing in some of the more quotidian aspects of Ronah’s life, such as an ongoing plumbing problem, periodic meetings with her boss to discuss her patients’ progress, and mentions of her ongoing thesis project.
And brief sessions with Ronah’s other two clients—again, both white and able-bodied men—are actually quite charming. But when the narrative narrows its focus on Ronah and Johnny, not even the sheen of indie-film ambiguity can completely hide the conventionality at the heart of Marquadt’s film. Because while Ronah and Johnny’s relationship is strictly professional, they begin to develop feelings for each other. Complications ensue. And Ronah loses control of the boundaries between her professional and personal life.
That said, Marquant’s direction is laudably confident, thought it does at times fall victim to the glossy, greiged-out cinematography and sweeping handheld camera of so many indie dramas. Bloom is a revelation as the lead, as her face carries much of the emotional beats: every eye flick, pursed lip, brow furrow and occasional glowing smile are infinitely watchable. But the biggest problem with She’s Lost Control is the lack of thematic drive—the characters simply move through the plot laid out by the script with little reflection on the conventions at play. Potentially compelling themes are all there: she’s just a girl from a small town who’s come to the big city to find her place in the world. Who heals the healer? Can sex and love ever be mutually exclusive? By the end of the film, however, it doesn’t add up to much.