Order for Customer
Your shopping basket is empty.

Keep the Lights On

A raw and frequently devastating depiction of a destructive relationship set over a decade in New York City.

Even if a screening is sold out, tickets are often available 30 minutes before the start of the film at the box office at each venue.

Image gallery

  • Director Ira Sachs
  • Producer Lucas Joaquin, Marie Therese Guirgis
  • Screenwriter Ira Sachs, Mauricio Zacharias
  • With Thure Lindhardt, Zachary Booth, Julianne Nicholson
  • USA 2012
  • 102 mins
  • UK distribution Peccadillo Pictures

New York, the late 1990s. Wounded after the break-up of a relationship, sensitive documentary filmmaker Erik satiates his carnal desires through casual sex. One evening, during a routine no-strings encounter, he meets Paul, a closeted lawyer. The chemistry between the pair is palpable, but Paul has a girlfriend and tells Erik not to expect anything more from their random hook-up. However, the pair continue to see each other and quickly fall in love. As their intense bond grows, so does Erik’s concern over Paul’s drug habit, and soon the threat of addiction looks set to tear them apart. Based on his real-life experiences, director Ira Sachs’ deeply personal film skilfully avoids sentimentality or cliché to present a raw and frequently devastating depiction of a destructive relationship. From the Arthur Russell soundtrack, to recurring discussions of Avery Willard, Keep The Lights On is infused with an astute appreciation of queer art and history, adding further resonance to this heartfelt tale of pain and desire.
Michael Blyth

Director statement

I was aware so succinctly that there had been a first day and a last day [to my own relationship]. And there was such an incredible story between the two ends. The course of that experience was so clear in my mind in terms of its narrative power [...] In the end, it’s a film about a relationship. I didn’t necessarily approach it as a film about gay life per se; I approached it as a film about a relationship in New York at this specific time that happens to be between two men.
Ira Sachs

Director biography

Memphis-born in 1965, the now New York-based writer-director was first credited as assistant to the director on Norman René’s gay classic Longtime Companion (1989), and has since forged a substantial reputation via such features as Forty Shades of Blue and Married Life. The former picture took the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2005. His recent film, Last Address, a short work honouring a group of NYC artists who died of AIDS, has been added to the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art and MoMA and played at the 2011 Venice Biennale. He teaches in the Graduate Film department at NYU and is also the founder and co-curator of Queer/Art/Film, a monthly series held at the IFC Centre in New York, as well as the newly established Queer/Art/Mentorship, a programme that pairs and supports mentorship between queer working artists in NYC.


1992 Vaudeville
1993 Lady [s]
1996 Boy-Girl, Boy-Girl [co-d]; The Delta
2002 Underground Zero [ep Untitled only]
2005 Forty Shades of Blue
2007 Married Life
2010 Last Address [doc s]
2012 Keep the Lights on

Promotional Code

  • If you have a BFI promotion, please enter your code here: