Abby (Robin Weigert) and Kate (Julie Fain Lawrence) are married with kids, and life has settled into the humdrum day-to-day that every young person hopes they can avoid when they get older. After getting hit in the head by a baseball thrown by one of her kids, Abby finds herself shaken up and, coincidentally, more contemplative of her life. While renovating a loft with Justin (Johnathan Tchaikovsky), a part-time pimp alongside his girlfriend, known as “The Girl” (Emily Kinney), Abby takes Justin up on an offer to hook Abby up with a prostitute, Gretchen (Kate Rogal), to help Abby out with her current malaise, exacerbated by the currently sexless marriage.
And the one night, cash-for-sex stand winds up doing more than making Abby a loyal customer. Instead, persuaded by Justin and the Girl, Abby gets the idea that she too could try earning a little extra cash by exploring her sexuality with strangers, especially since she has a loft that she’s renovating and, therefore, has an excuse to be away from home all the time. It seems like a win-win. Abby gets to make more money, and she gets to fill the sexless space in her marriage.
Everything works out in as pleasant a manner as one could hope for, even as Abby, going by the name “Eleanor,” institutes a rule where she must meet the clients prior to sleeping with them. And it’s more than just sexy time, as Abby becomes as integral to her clients’ emotional and sexual growth as they, unknowingly, are to hers. Things only begin to get more complicated when one of Abby’s clients winds up being another mom, Sam (Maggie Siff), from her neighborhood.
Concussion isn’t some sultry, titillating sex-fest, it’s an exploration of not just sexuality and human growth, but also relationships that have hit that comfort stage where, perhaps the love isn’t gone, but the passionate fire doesn’t burn as bright. As such, the film can be relatable though, as a married man, I hope it never gets that relatable. The sexuality in the film is handled with grace and class, and in more than a few moments, the physical release takes a backseat to the emotional connections fulfilled by the various couplings.
And while the film gets emotional, it does so in a very real way. This isn’t a case of Abby and Kate’s relationship blowing up in a sexuality-infused, dramatic explosion; they both very obviously care very much for each other, but they’re also both unable to give, or get, something they need within the current framework of their relationship. It doesn’t make either of them a bad person; it makes them flawed, and therefore human.
I’d be lying if the film didn’t leave me slightly confused from time to time, most notably the relationship of Justin to Abby. I feel like I missed a comment, or something, where it is explained, because I wasn’t sure if he was her brother, or just a contractor she knew well. His candor suggests that, if nothing else, they’re close friends, and I think it would be odd for a brother to suggest that his sister see a prostitute, let alone become one, but I wasn’t sure. Again, though, maybe it was mentioned and I just missed it.
Concussion is a brilliantly nuanced look at the complications of modern relationships. I think it could be easy to dismiss Abby’s actions as some sort of mid-life crisis, or even to play off the title and see it as simply a post-concussion reaction altering her behavior, but I think there’s much more to the film than those simple answers, or at the very least, a tangled knot involving all. Regardless of the final interpretation, I found the film fascinating.