I actually had to watch this movie a second time because I had a tough time understanding the dialogues the first viewing around (the so-so quality of the sound mostly?) and I missed some important exchanges. It made more sense the second time although I feel JPS missed the key scene at the end for which I expected a little more gut-wrenching, tear-jerking intensity through a more developed and explosive dialogue.
However, I must say that the style and rythm of the movie are excellent and it is perfectly paced. Although underlined with sex and violence (which are personal to the main character), the story is unusual and, simply for that, kudos to JPS for not directing another canned Hollywood product. Her directorial debut is quite remarkable, even if/because it is not mainstream.
Indeed, this film is not for everyone; it is sexually charged - but not shocking or uncomfortable by any means - and emotionally raw, and many viewers will not fare well with the mature,complex characters and issues.
I didn't know Jason Clarke before watching the film and I was very impressed by his intense and moving performance as Julian, a corporate player with complex personal issues, who goes through a few serious meltdowns after meeting a beautiful stranger who pretends to "free" him from the conventional "contracts" his life may be tied by. Paz Vega is gorgeous as usual, but I sincerely think she somehow missed her character Michael, the free-spirited jet-setting type of woman Julian falls for, and she did not ring true to me, even in the light of her own personal issues. I just did not get attached to her and found her sexual freedom a little overdone (the way she walks... seriously!), not very fresh. Every other role is perfectly cast, and it is always a treat to have accomplished actors covering even the "small" roles.
The soundtrack is different, off-beat and meets the unconventional layout of the story. Great use of Placebo's version of Kate Bush's Running up that Hill.
Also, kudos for the art direction as a whole. L.A. looks truly beautiful as seen from Julian's apartment, but also in the smaller, more intimate settings/locations (the art gallery, the brand management building, the museum, the cemetery...), and not often does this city come out as attractive as it does in this movie.
I recommend seeing the film for the various reasons I gave; and if it were for only one, I think that Clarke's top performance is to be recognized.
The special features are worth watching: the conversation with the director, producers, actors, etc. sheds more light on the project in an interesting and intelligent way.