Seal of Desire is a romantic thriller about the attractive, supremely confident psychologist Malcolm King (Markiss McFadden), who specializes in couples therapy. He has a strong sense of people, and with that, plus his training, he quickly susses out the root of issues between a couple. It seems like all the patients he sees are experiencing infidelity. While calling out the men in the relationships for straying, Malcolm secretly uses his charisma to seduce the heartbroken wives.
Malcolm rationalizes this by explaining (in voice-over) that he gives them what they need when they need it. Perhaps he’s right, but that motive for such behavior is weak. His moral compass is busted. In his stalking, nighttime visits to lonely wives, the psychologist wears a mask and calls himself “Messiah.” He delivers proof of the partner’s infidelity, and then he soothes the distraught woman in the only way he knows how. While he has no primary relationship of his own, Malcolm is like the Dexter of marital infidelity, pulling in the wives of the sinners and having his way with them.
There’s also drama in his office staff between his administrative assistants and partner in the practice. Everyone around Malcolm seems to be crumbling to bits while he stands firm in the maelstrom. Can no one see how Malcolm takes advantage of the wives? But then Malcolm meets a woman who just might be able to beat him at his own game.
“…Malcolm secretly uses his charisma to seduce the heartbroken wives.”
Markiss McFadden not only stars in Seal of Desire, but he also wrote and directed it, making him one busy and talented individual. While it’s clear that the thriller is a fantasy, there’s some question of whose fantasy it is. Is it the male dream of having irresistible power over women? Is it the wish-fulfillment of women who’d love to get revenge on cheating husbands or men like Malcolm? Having Malcolm around would be like having a pet lion in that it would be very cool as long as you can control it.
Throughout the narrative, there’s definitely a dominant/submissive vibe to Malcolm and his conquests. He commands each situation with assuredness that he can control every outcome. But it feels at some points like he’s a serial killer, acting out in increasingly reckless ways, begging to be caught. He’s a dominant only so long as there is no woman who is better at taking control than he is. He seeks her out and dreads finding her at the same time.
As low-budget vanity projects go, Seal of Desire achieves an extraordinarily high standard of quality. Unfortunately, it leans a bit too much on the narration for exposition, and the script indulges in soap-opera melodrama. Despite these minor flaws, the production values are solid. The film is entertaining and will keep your attention.
McFadden and his cast are young, beautiful, and well dressed (and sometimes undressed). The performances are exceptional, as is the cinematography. The film is racy, but it falls short of being porn. If the Lifetime channel had an erotic spinoff, Seal of Desire could be the flagship film. With a little more skin and graphic sex, it could be thoughtful erotica with a compelling story. Overall, it succeeds at presenting an entertaining, balanced narrative and leaves to the audience the judgment of whether the characters get the justice they deserve.
Seal of Desire will be available on-demand on April 12.
"…succeeds at presenting an entertaining, balanced narrative..."