Shortbus revolves around a large cast of characters, including Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee), Jamie (PJ DeBoy), and James (Paul Dawson). Sofia is a couples counsellor and sex therapist who is frustrated with her own inability to achieve orgasm, in a relationship with a kind, yet dull, man named Rob. Jamie is a former child star, and is in a relationship with James, a former prostitute. James and Jamie attend a session with Sofia, and end up suggesting that she join them at a weekly meeting that’s a mash-up of sex, art and socializing.
Through this meeting, named “Shortbus”, Sofia meets and befriends a dominatrix who goes by the name of Severin, while James and Jamie open up to a sexual relationship with a man named Ceth. Meanwhile, a man named Caleb that lives across the street from James and Jamie, and who secretly stalks them, becomes concerned when Ceth enters their home, worrying that it might be the beginning of the end for their relationship.
It’s revealed that James has been preparing to commit suicide. Caleb catches him in the act, causing him to be saved, although it isn’t until later that James finds out who had kept him alive, and the two join in a moment of piercing intimacy at Caleb’s home, which Jamie happens to witness from outside a window. Sofia struggles to experience orgasm yet again, this time resulting in the lights in the entire city going off in some weird way. Finally, all the characters meet again at Shortbus, forging new relationships together and overcoming their past traumas, culminating in Sofia’s finally achieving orgasm and the restoration of light to the city.
“John Cameron Mitchell‘s adventurous, big-hearted, pansexual mosaic of New Yorkers looking for love and orgasms (not necessarily in that order), is a rare example of a nonporn film that doesn’t exploit graphic sex as a gimmick.”
— Lou Lumenick, New York Post
“If there is such a thing as hard-core with a soft heart, this is it.”
— Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
Did You Know?
Shortbus experienced a large amount of controversy due to John Cameron Mitchell’s decision to use non-simulated sex and orgasms. Sook-Yin Lee almost lost her job at the Canadian Broadcasting Company due to her participation in some of these scenes, but overwhelming support from both the public and major figures in entertainment helped her to retain her position. In South Korea, the movie was initially banned for its sexually explicit content, although the Supreme Court of the country stuck down the ban two years later. Review our Gay Themed Films Here