The Voyeurs

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Sydney Sweeney’s big eyes and impressive breasts both work hard in The Voyeurs, a trashy thriller designed to titillate even as it vaguely warns of the perils of being too interested in what other people get up to. As is often the way with these things, a hearty interest in what other people get up to is actually The Voyeurs‘ raison d’etre.

It starts with one of those grand cinematic establishing shots of a cityscape, the camera gradually zooming in, in, in, onto a street, a shop, then dissolving the window separating outside from inside, before advancing still further into this boutique selling lingerie, and towards a changing cubicle where Sweeney can just be glimpsed mid-change, a bit of sideboob on display. She wheels around, outraged, and yanks the curtain shut.

Theme established, writer/director Michael Mohan moves on to tone, and the big, swirly, elaborately lavish opening credits take us into a racy world of soft-focus raunch, one where Jackie Collins is still banging out novels about people banging each other and the idea is not to take any of what you’re about to see too seriously.

And then on to meet the players. Pippa (Sweeney), an optometrist and Thomas (Justice Smith), her boyfriend, move into a big loft apartment. No curtains, stipulates the lease, and on their first night there they spot their young, good-looking neighbours over the way, also in a large and handsome loft, having sex.

It begins, Pippa and Thomas’s voyeuristic obsession with their new neighbours, Seb (Ben Hardy) a photographer of the old-school “yeh, baby, make love to the camera” variety – but with tone, tone! – and Julia (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) a retired model, Pippa later learns when Julia comes into her practice to have her eyes tested.

And well Julia should, since Seb is banging anything in (but soon out of) a skirt in his home-cum-studio. Seb is a handsome man with a sculpted physique and we’re treated to most angles of it as Pippa and Thomas, but mostly Pippa, start to use the couple opposite as a kind of on-demand live porn show. Binoculars have been purchased and the technically savvy Thomas has soon also rigged up a way of eavesdropping on Seb and Julia’s conversations too.

Pippa and Thomas are enjoying themselves, at first anyway, though Thomas is soon having misgivings, while the viewer is being treated to frequent references to Hitchcock’s Rear Window – the apartments are similar, the voyeurism is similar and eventually things go to the dark side in a murderously similar way. Ish. Ish. Ish.

Seb and Julia in bed
And here’s what they saw

Mohan is also partaking of a bit of voyeurism himself, his camera lingering on the talented Sweeney’s lips, her fingers, the swell of her breasts (though in the ostensibly more equal-opportunities 21st-century climate Ben Hardy’s body also gets plenty of attention). To be fair to Mohan, or any director working with Sweeney, the breasts come as part of the deal, and even in less overtly sexualised appearances – like in the thriller Nocturne (about girls who play the piano) or the TV show The Handmaid’s Tale – they start to muscle in on the action even in scenes where they have no role. They should probably get their own trailer.

There’s a money shot, in other words, in the film’s climactic moment, the one before the edifice of peek-a-boo crumbles to reveal that Pippa and Thomas (barely still in it by this point) have been played, before Mohan yanks the chain one more time as things become overwrought to such a degree that a “bravo” is actually in order.

In great Jackie Collins style it insists all along that it’s perfectly OK to be relaxed about sex and then goes on to detail how, exactly, it isn’t OK to be relaxed about sex.

It’s lurid, moralising, faintly nasty and entirely hypocritical, and it’s meant to be. It’s also erotic as hell, thanks largely to Sweeney, and Hardy helps, his young-Terence-Stamp-beautiful-and-damned hauteur adding value to all the weeks in the gym. It knocks the clankingly unsexy 50 Shades of Grey movies into a hat, cocked or otherwise. Talking of which, it’s coy about cock – Jackie would approve.

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© Steve Morrissey 2021

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