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Portrait of a mistress awakening

October 25, 2002|Kevin Thomas

In his elegant "Looking Through Lillian," director Jake Torem swiftly moves beyond familiar first-feature artiness to create an illuminating portrait of a young woman (Jade Henham) brought to a crossroads in her life.

Lillian has settled for a luxurious but empty existence as the mistress of Gene (Sam Bottoms), a hard-driving, successful, married businessman. In return for being able to afford a tasteful apartment and a fabulous wardrobe and lifestyle, Lillian must be available to the busy Gene at precise times and must cater to his particular sexual quirk. In Gene it inspires shame and in Lillian suppressed disgust; they've learned that things go better with coke.

Yet Lillian is beginning to yearn for more from life and to feel like "a cripple with an invisible crutch." When Lillian meets Luke (Robert Glen Keith), a handsome, low-key freelance writer, he provides her with a fresh perspective, which is further encouraged by her straight-shooting pal Andrea (Essence Atkins).

Lillian's awakening, beautifully portrayed by Henham, who wrote the film with Torem, takes some surprising turns, all the more satisfying for their realism. Henham's portrayal is well matched by those of Bottoms and Keith in depth and focus. "Looking Through Lillian" also benefits strongly from Glen Ade Brown's gleaming cinematography and its inspired use of music.

"Looking Through Lillian": Unrated. Mature, adult themes, some strong sexual scenes. Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes. Exclusively at the Fairfax Cinemas.


--Kevin Thomas

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