The hero of this handsomely photographed little film has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, tics, & Tourette Syndrome. Apparently he's gone much of his life able to hold in or disguise the worst manifestations of these disorders, & has built up a successful work life & marriage. But as the film opens, pressures have been such that he's bursting at the seams. His wife Stevie has filed for divorce due to his unpredictable behavior, & he's losing his job as an architect for his undiagnosed Tourettes outbursts. The more he loses control of his life, the further down a slippery slope he descends into obsessions.
Mark (Welsh actor Michael Sheen) is spotted by a woman who also has OCD. She instantly recognizes a fellow traveler, though he himself doesn't have any name for his condition other than losing control. Charlotte or Charlie (the women in his life prefer boy names) is played by the cutest Betty Boop-voiced actress, Shirley Henderson. One of her OCD issues regards odd numbers. She can't stand them. All groups of things should be even, including people, & since she is singular, she can barely stand herself alone.
She's on meds & compared to Mark, she seems to be in full control of herself. She has started a self-help group & tries to lead by example, proof that OCD sufferers can live relatively normal lives.
When Mark becomes part of a charming bunch of self-help nutters with OCD, Dirty Filthy Love (2004) becomes, for a little while, an entirely sweet tale. Wackos with issues befriending & helping one another isn't black comedy, it's just funny & sweet & admirable.
We know damned well that Charlotte & Mark belong together, but his OCD demands he become a veritable stalker in his desire to win Stevie back. His maniacal self-absorption is a cruelty to Charlotte that he can't see.
His ex sleeps with him one more time & this makes his condition much worse as he convinces himself they're getting back together. He cuts himself off from friends including Charlie & descends into filth & squaler, becoming, after a few months, a bearded mumbling street crazy, pathetic, mad as a hatter, & perpetually stalking Stevie in her new life.
Mark has retained one friend from his semi "normal" past, Nathan, & even Nathan has just about had enough. He tracks down Charlotte & tells her what has been going on, & how much Mark has deteriorated, & she comes to the poor fool's aid.
Charlie seems awfully well sewn together considering how cracked she's been in the past. But she hides one uncontrolled pitiable trait, which is revealed in the most humiliating way possible. But before that happens, she holds back her own heartbreak & follows Mark to the brutal climax of this one aspect of his disorder, his conviction that Stevie wants him back.
When he pathetically demands to know why she slept with him that last day if she already knew she was going to be with someone else, she admits, "I was confused. I just wanted Mark back," & so far as she is concerned, this twitchy, barking loony can't possibly be Mark. He has a major breakthrough when he tells her of aspects of OCD that he's had since childhood. "I am Mark. I've always been like this. I probably always will be."
Finally capable of a selfless act, he turns to Charlotte to comfort her in her own moment of humiliation. Finally seeing Charlie for all that she is, Mark is on the cusp of distinguishing a difference between love for Charlotte, & his obsessive disorder that had focused on Stevie.
Although loads of funny stuff happens throughout this film, it is often more alarming than it is comical, & an incredibly good dramatic story. It never descends into that mushy area of "disease of the week" type "awareness" film. It's a real story beautifully acted with a dark edge to its beauty. The pain is convincing & the triumphs are not exaggerated into fairy tales. Dirty Filthy Love provides evidence that outcast eccentric loonies just might be the best of people.
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