Choke: A Review (On Sex as Longing)

I am reviewing two films this week, both about that “touchy” subject of sex. Both of these films, “Save Me” and “Choke” are Rated R, and they are both about sex. If either of those are barriers of entry for you morally or otherwise, it is probably best to avoid both films because they contain explicit scenes, some raunchy humor and present views of sex that many readers may consider beyond their moral system. I hope, however, that some of you will decide to give the two films a chance because they both contain truths about the human condition, faith and sexuality that are worthy of consideration. The Bible often turns to sex to present truths about humans, about love, and about God, and it is possible for good films to do just the same.

The first film I will review is one that I saw this past January at the Sundance Film Festival that is now in general release, “Choke”. The screenplay is written and directed by Clark Gregg, the son of a Christian theologian whose theological depth undergirds this film. The film is based on the novel by “Fight Club” writer Chuck Palanhiuk and was inspired by the true story of a man that the author met who would throw himself in front of cars in the road just so someone would stop and touch him.

The film stars Sam Rockwell as “Victor”, a man so desperate for love and touch that he fakes choking in restaurants just so someone will perform the Heimlich Maneuver and give him a hug. This film is not about sex — that’s just the surface issue, and it always is — this film is about the desire to be loved and the addictive search for this love in all the wrong places. Victor attends Sexaholics Anonymous groups because he is addicted to one night stands and meaningless sex anywhere anytime, including the Sexaholics Anonymous meeting. Victor finds some satisfaction in this sad life until he finally meets a woman, played by Kelly Macdonald, during a hookup in the hospital chapel. It is there, beneath the cross of Jesus, that Victor finally finds a woman who actually respects and loves him, and he finally feels something for another person too. Victor and his new partner end their sexual exploits, zip it up (literally), and decide to treat each other with respect. What follows is a journey towards learning how to love and to be loved that is humorous, profound and deeply spiritual.

While some viewers will be put off by the raunch or the subject matter, there is much to “chew on” in “Choke”. For anyone who has ever substituted touch or sex for love, this movie depicts how sex is no substitute for love. Love can’t happen where sex becomes an addiction. Love takes time and loyalty. But this also film declares that there is hope for the addict and for those who run from love — sometimes Love finds us, and it begins to transform all human love and longing.


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