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Sunday, 4 November 2018

REVIEW: Louis Theroux's Altered States: Love Without Limits

What do you say to the person you love most in the world when they say they have feelings for someone else?”


Louis Theroux’s ‘Love Without Limits’ part of his new series of documentaries ‘Altered States’ explores the benefits and constraints of Polygamous relationships.

Through Theroux’s always awkward always charming personality and questioning, the documentary has us focus on and re-evaluate our old-fashioned views on relationships and asks us to explore polygamy as a positive concept rather than immediately dismiss it as something we don’t understand. 

The Documentary follows a series of relationships ranging from the two intertwined married couples Jerry, Heidi, Joe and Gretchen also the younger generations representatives AJ, Mateus, and Joel, and Q and a 3-way marriage between IT workers Amanda, Nick and Bob. The range allows the audience to normalise the relationships (Apart from the extremely uncomfortable, 3-way- display and live explanation of cuddling techniques used in bed by Amanda, Nick and Bob) with representatives from all age groups, and also shows how these relationship fare under new stresses and circumstances, for example; how the marriage will hold up, how the pregnancy will affect the polygamy and hierarchical relationships within the polygamy.

Our hearts can hold love for more than one person at a time,” AJ says about her relationships with Mateus and Q, however, it is shown that there are sacrifices being made by Mateus in that he isn’t entirely happy with the arrangement and evidently wants AJ to himself.


Though the people Louis meets are constantly reassuring him that they're happy with their various arrangments it's clear that a lot are unhappy. Problems seem to arise through these relationships when the third party goes home or one of them is alone, as shown with Joe and Gretchen when Heidi leaves and Joe is ‘pining’, Gretchen points out that for Heidi to move in with them wouldn’t be realistic and would break the dynamics as Joe would be prioritised last over Heidi’s daughter and husband who would come first. Then there's Gretchen's long-suffering husband Jerry who is left out of his wife's relationship with Joe. The most uncomfortable part of the documentary comes near the end when Louis asks Gretchen if Jerry could perhaps be involved and she squirms in her chair at the idea. That's what makes Theroux's documentary so watchable. He doesn't judge the people he meets, he's calm and relaxed and asks the questions us at home would ask if we found ourselves there. He's quick to pick up on Jerry's loneliness, something besotted Heidi barely recognises. Whatever subjects Theroux is presenting he always put the human face on them and that's what makes him the master. 

It leaves you wondering who really benefits from polygamy? Is it the selfish have your cake and eat it arrangement, or can it enhance your life?  The fact that these relationships only allow a certain part of someone and a certain aspect of someone’s personality to be shown and only how they are with no commitments mean there are no ups and downs to the relationship, it ultimately begs the question of functionality.

Contributed by Jazz Cooke

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