The Irish romantic comedy Goldfish Memory, which opens this year's Pittsburgh International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, has ample story content that's appropriate to its venue: a spirited lesbian TV news reporter who hits on a protester at a St. Patrick's Day parade; a raffish lad who returns his current lover's toothbrush personally -- to the man's office -- the morning after.
But writer/director Liz Gill balances these situations with some heterosexual characters facing their own romantic pangs and troubles. It's a choice that puts all (or at least several) combinations of love on equal footing, and that creates a world where "nothing is forbidden," where the closet is mostly for clothes, and where you can't tell what's what or who's who until someone flirts with someone (and sometimes not even then).
So OK. Here goes. Tom is a philandering 40ish college lit professor who fancies brainy younger women, especially his blond student Isolde, with whom he's currently sleeping. Angie is a TV reporter in her 30s who fancies Clara, who's only 22 and who has a progressive young boyfriend who's totally keen on her newly emerging proclivity (and not because he wants to watch). Angie's guy pal Red is a bike messenger who fancies David, a waiter who has a girlfriend and who's "not gay," which he declares between kisses with Red under a streetlight after a few rounds at the pub.
What follows is a roundelay of hookups, breakups and conversations about why we put ourselves through such agony, set in a radiant Dublin by day and night, and all of it pleasantly entertaining, if a bit superfluous and familiar in the post-Queer As Folk and The L Word era (though not the least bit sexually explicit).
It's probably no coincidence that Tom and Angie, the post-twentysomethings in the mix, declare love too early in their relationships and scare their lovers off. ("'I love you' really means 'Do you love me' and 'I own you' and all that crap," Clara tells Angie in bed one morning.) That may seem like a twist on the anticipated head-over-heels naïveté of youth, but Goldfish Memory appears to follow the thinking that the older you get, the lonelier you become, and so love takes on a greater urgency.
Gill keeps her movie bright and airy, with no talk much heavier than some epigrams on love and romance that will make you smile and nod with recognition before you quickly forget them. Her actors are thoroughly charming, and to accent the equality of the pairings, she cuts freely between them in ways that occasionally make it seem like the hets are ringing up the 'mos. Her title comes from the fact (or "fact") that a goldfish's memory lasts for only three seconds. So each trip 'round the fishbowl -- just like each time through the wringer of love -- feels (as they say) like the very first time.