Sometimes being a film and TV critic means watching softcore Polish erotica at 8 am, and it was while tuning into The Next 365 Days that I had a thought – two, actually. The first was that these films are essentially review-proof, which I pointed out in my review of the previous one and remains equally true here. But the second was that I kind of get it. At this point, I think I understand what the appeal is about these deeply silly movies, and I also think it’s a waste of time to critique them on the level that you ordinarily would.
It’s easy to dismiss everything to do with 365 Days, on a moral level – they’re still about deeply unhealthy ideas of sex and relationships – and a technical one since they are really atrociously written and plotted if you stop to think about it for even a second. But why stop to think about it? That’s my job, sure, but of the presumably millions of people who will stream this on Netflix, none of them will give a single Frenchman’s f*ck about any of this. Why should they?
Erotica is about escapism. It’s a vision of sexuality that is, by design, unrealistic. It’s designed to cater to those ideas that are just acceptable enough for you to hold but dodgy enough that they’re unlikely to be feasible in your real life. It felt purely aesthetic at first – Laura gets to have her cake and eat it, more so in this movie than either of the previous two. The cakes in this analogy are two absurdly handsome, mutually dangerous men. But at one point in The Next 365 Days, Laura lures Massimo away from a meeting just by strutting past him, and it occurred to me that is the real point: Power. Even the most authoritative of men can’t put business first in this fantasy.
I’m rambling about this because you can’t just smugly discount popularity of this scale in that know-it-all way critics usually do, but also because there’s even less plot to this movie than there usually is, which is something of an achievement. After recovering from her gunshot at the end of the previous movie, Laura has stayed with Massimo, but can’t stop having sex dreams about Nacho, and before long we’re in proper love triangle territory with Laura understandably unable to decide between her two suitors. There’s a lot of contrivance and hammy dialogue and perhaps even more sex montages than ever – again, quite an achievement.
The previous movie in this franchise wasn’t any good, but it felt like it was building towards something. The Next 365 Days squanders virtually all of that by sweeping the gangster plot out of the frame and focusing instead purely on the romance, though perhaps romance isn’t quite the right word. The plentiful sex scenes are even starting to feel tedious, though if you’re really feeling charitable you can at least point out the use of juxtaposition – all ferocious and primal with Massimo, all tender and appreciative with Nacho – to highlight Laura’s internal dilemma and conflicted feelings. That’s a proper filmmaking technique. It just isn’t in a proper film.
Weirdly, though, I don’t think this not being a “proper” film is even a criticism at this point. People who are into it aren’t looking for plot coherency, character development, snappy writing, or even convincing acting, at least not beyond these people being believably attracted to one another, which is the only acting that seems to matter. Nobody’s looking for Casablanca here. And while they certainly won’t find it, either way, they will find pretty much exactly what they’re looking for.