When an environmental consultant (Mark Ruffalo) works up the nerve to tell a new partner (Gwyneth Paltrow) he’s a recovering sex addict, she can barely stifle a laugh. But credit to Stuart Blumberg’s New York-set directorial debut (he wrote 2010’s ‘The Kids Are All Right’) for treating sexual compulsion as gravely as a drug or alcohol addiction.
Ruffalo’s five-years-sober hero is ready to take steps towards romance. Paltrow’s breast-cancer survivor has a mania for exercise, which suggests we all have one addiction or another. We’ve seen these characters before. Equally familiar is the 12-step sage (Tim Robbins) trying to make amends with an estranged son (Patrick Fugit). What keeps it fresh is the way Blumberg strikes a balance between dour downward spirals and inspirational uplift, giving these flawed people a sense of hope and the knowledge that it will never be enough. Blumberg doesn’t exempt his characters from responsibility, nor does he keep them at arm’s length – he’s right there with them, one day at a time.