The comfortable marriage of a gay couple is tested by a new friendship with a complex foreign couple.
Critic and novelist Bram (Lives of the Circus Animals, 2003, etc.) takes on big and small issues in a thoughtful domestic melodrama set in the last days before the beginning of the current war. Artist Daniel Wexler and psychiatrist Zack Knowles came to Williamsburg, Va., from New York so that Daniel could teach painting at the College of William and Mary. Their seemingly rock-stable relationship, long open by agreement, has been sexless for years; Daniel has affairs, Zack has drifted into celibacy. But they are content and devoted. And they are the first couple in town to show hospitality to Iranian Abbas Rohani, this year’s visiting resident artist, Elena, his Russian wife, and their young son and daughter. When the Rohanis come to dinner, Zack and Daniel find them intelligent, combative and fascinating. Zack and Elena Rohani quickly develop a strong friendship, but Daniel finds the handsome Abbas arrogant and cocksure. He impulsively offers to show the Rohanis his own paintings, which Abbas finds wanting. Daniel is hurt and angry, but when he sees Abbas’s work, he has to admit that the man is hugely talented. And the sexual vibrations that Daniel picked up from Abbas go two ways. Abbas is also gay and also in an open marriage. The two artists begin an intense affair that becomes far more complicated than is good for either marriage, testing Zack’s psychiatric skills to the limit along with the relationship when Daniel falls in love. The affair eventually burns out, but there are scars. Then Abbas’s older brother Hassan, a religiously observant, big-time Tehran financier, drops in and things fall even farther apart. Hassan wants the family back in Iran, where he can protect them when the situation in Iraq blows up.
A carefully crafted effort to bring some rather specialized relationships into the mainstream.