If Year of the Carnivore were to win a movie award it would be for Most Awkward Sex Scenes of All Time. One scene includes the presence of twin babies, while another involves only a girl and a wall.
Samantha Smalls is a childhood cancer survivor who seems to have missed out on the awkward learning stages of sex and relationships in her teens and now, at 21, she’s starving for any kind of experience.
Eager to learn, she tries getting hot and heavy with her nerdy musician crush, Eugene.
But when that doesn’t work out, he gives her some advice that drives the rest of the plot: people aren’t natural born lovers – being a great lay takes practice.
Sam then uses her job as a P.I. at a grocery store as an opportunity to start honing her sex skills by blackmailing shoplifters to give her sex lessons in the woods.
The film, with cinematography as quirky and delightful as the characters, is written and directed by Canadian Sook-Yin Lee, who based some of Sam’s experiences in the film on her own sexual mishaps and explorations.
Year of the Carnivore is definitely not your typical rom-com. The sex scenes provide the comedy and the comedy makes you cringe while you giggle uncomfortably for lack of any other logical reaction.
The essential rom-com formula is there: boy and girl fall in love, break up, kiss and make up – hell, there’s even the obligatory “girl-gets-a-sexy-makeover” scene, but Lee changes up the variables in this formula so that everything else, from the characters to the dialogue, is approached from a rarely explored angle.
Sometimes the result is endearing and insightful, and sometimes it’s just plain weird.
One of the most interesting things about the film is that while it goes against the grain of classic romantic comedy clichés, like having lead characters who look like Barbies or underwear models, it also seems to simultaneously justify them.
After Sam gets her obligatory makeover she feels sexy and powerful. The physical transformation is only temporary, but the makeover helps Sam’s character to evolve.
Year of the Carnivore takes a refreshing stab at conveying one of the less glamourous sides to relationships: the awkward, clumsy, totally un-sexy experiences that people have while trying to explore their sexuality.
But the film also offers those who are also seeking sexual experience some solid advice: the woods are not the ideal place to learn how to fuck.
Published in Volume 65, Number 13 of The Uniter (November 25, 2010)