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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 5.Feb.19

No Ordinary Boy: Boys on Film 19
Review by Rich Cline
Boys on Film 19
release UK 18.Feb.19
19/UK Peccadillo 2h15

Boys on Film 19
Peccadillo's 19th collection of gay-themed short films goes dark. Each of these mini-epics is pungent and pointed, grappling with massive themes as the characters circle each other in ways that are difficult, challenging and often hard to watch. Even if this 10-film lineup isn't particularly sexy, the emotions run strong in each film, and each is strikingly well-made, digging deep beneath the skin.

VOL 18   <   BOYS ON FILM   >   VOL 20

Michael Joseph Jason John dir-scr Scott T Hinson
with Eric Robledo, Scott T Hinson
18/US 10m


Michael Joseph Jason John

Michael Joseph Jason John Sly and intriguing, this film follows an unexpected encounter between two men who meet each other on the New York Subway, then have a one-night stand. One (played by writer-director Hinson) gives his name as 8, his apartment number, and calls the other guy (Robledo) Michael Joseph Jason John as a kind of catch-all guess. Over the following days, 8 pictures a growing relationship between them as he waits for the other man to call. The film plays out like a fantasy, as 8 imagines a range of scenarios in which their budding relationship heads in some unexpected directions. This helps explain the super-cheesy sex montage as well as hints that this might shift from a breezy, almost comical romance into a nasty thriller. The question is whether this will have his imagined happy ever after ending, or perhaps turn into something a lot grislier. The script is light and clever, with a superb real-world punchline. And a light undercurrent of possibility adds some earthy depth beneath the frothy surface.

The Fish Curry dir Abhishek Verma
scr Jayesh Bhosale, Abhishek Verma
voices Abhishek Verma, Suraj Ghosh, Ajay Singhal, Deepa Kumar, Amar Chaudhary, Rajesh Pawar
17/Ind 12m


The Fish Curry
Maacher Jhol    4/5

The Fish Curry Beautifully inventive hand-drawn animation brings layers of emotion and meaning to this gently engaging story. It begins with Lalit (voiced by director Verma) shopping for fish in the market, then following a TV chef's recipe to painstakingly make maacher jhol, a Bengal-style spicy fish curry, for his father (Ghosh). As he prepares for the visit, he has a haircut and shave and worries about his plan to come out to his father as gay, so he will stop pressuring him to marry a woman. With subtle colour and a strongly original design, director Verma stirs in a range of little surprises along the way, both visual flourishes and little narrative touches that let the audience inside Lalit's mind. And the script is wonderfully understated, exploring the unspoken gaps in conversation and the lightest touches rather than big drama. Along the way, there are glimpses of Lalit's relationship with his father over the years, as well as his internalised struggle to tell him the truth about himself. And in Lalit's connection with his boyfriend, we understand how his heart yearns to live openly.

Meatoo dir-scr Dean Loxton
with Calum Speed, Warren Rusher
18/UK 4m


Meatoo An improvised short conceived and shot in one day, this clever little drama is set during an audition as an actor (Speed) reads to play the role of a troubled gay boxer. The casting director (Rusher) asks him to do a scene, followed by a series of physical exercises to show how he would move in the gym scenes. And from here things take a couple of unexpected turns. Snappy and strikingly well shot and edited, this quick little black comedy is scored with jaunty music (by Andrea Boccadoro) that conveys a sense of both tongue-in-cheek humour and the darker themes the film is touching on. Director Loxton cleverly catches both the vulnerability of the barely clothed actor and the leering gaze of the casting director in a way that's both witty and more than a little menacing, skilfully played with loads of understated subtext by Speed and Rusher. And where this is heading has a couple of nice little kicks that play on the title in more than one way while offering some shamelessly saucy visual innuendo. It may ultimately feel a bit slight, but it shows superb on-the-spot inventiveness.

Dusk dir-scr Jake Graf
with Sue Moore, Elliott Sailors, Duncan James, Victoria Emslie, Elaine Hallam, Cornelia Scott, Harry Bryant, Hannah Winterbourne
17/UK 15m


Dusk There's a light nostalgic emotionality to this kaleidoscopic short British film, which opens as the ageing Chris (Moore) watches two young children playing in the fallen leaves. He reminisces about his own youth, as he learned about choices that were made for him and made momentous decisions himself, even as they were harshly limited. The film cuts around in time, from Chris' troubled school days to her transition from schoolgirl into a young man who refuses to allow bullying to define his life (the character is played by six actors, including James as the idealised version of himself). Then as a young man (Sailors), he finds love with a woman (Emslie). But memories are tricky things, seeing the person you really are even if very few see things the way you do. This is a complex look at the real-life struggle for identity, seen through the eyes of someone for whom self-realisation brought along much bigger issues. It's astute and important, artfully observed and beautifully shot, edited and played. And as filmmaker Graf sharply reveals wrinkles in the plot, the film carries an emotional wallop. Love is love, indeed.

No More We dir-scr David Fardmar
with Jonathan Andersson, Bjorn Elgerd
18/Swe 15m
Expanded into the feature:

No More We  
Vi Finns Inte Längre    4.5/5

No More We This emotionally raw Swedish short film opens with Adrian (Elgerd) in pain: "I'm so stupid, I should never have asked!" But his ex-fiance Hampus (Andersson) feels relieved that they have broken up, launching into the process of separating their lives. For Adrian, this is unbearable, sparking a series of panic attacks. As they talk about the day Hampus is moving out, they excavate their relationship, both the logistics and the entwined emotions. Each of them feels hope, but isn't quite sure how to get to it. Gorgeously shot and performed with honest emotion, this film isn't easy to watch. These men clearly care a lot for each other, so their breakup is devastating. Both Andersson and Elgerd play the roles with gulping waves of pain that cause them to lash out in anger, even as their physical closeness is impossible to resist. Writer-director Fardmar has a remarkable eye for the earthy realities of relationships, rather than the usual fluff portrayed on-screen. This film is infused with an almost too-vivid sense of confusion and anguish. And it also remembers to include the intense passion.

Jermaine & Elsie dir Leon Lopez
scr Ashley Campbell
with Ashley Campbell, Marji Campi, Kiell Smith Bynoe, Suzie Chard, Tricia George, Louis St Juste, Sally Bankes, David Lumby
17/UK 21m

Jermaine & Elsie

Jermaine & Elsie In London, Jermaine (Campbell) is a 35-year-old carer working with a series of awkward clients. Endlessly patient, he tries to keep each pensioner happy, no matter how nasty they are. The worst is Elsie (Campi), who speaks in a string of nonstop complaints and racist generalisations about Jermaine's black heritage. But his relentlessly friendly manner begins to wear her down. Although he knows she's not ready to meet his boyfriend (Smith Bynoe). Then when Jermaine suddenly stops coming around, Elsie tenaciously sets out to find him. The film is nicely put together in a matter-of-fact way that's earthy and accessible, like a quality TV drama. Each actor brings an easy authenticity to his or her role. Campbell is likeable and intriguing as the friendly Jermaine, while Campi underscores Elsie's straight-talking prickliness with heart. Although Smith Bynoe's character feels oddly sidelined in lieu of Chard's larger-than-life replacement carer. Where the story goes is unexpected, mixing comedy with emotion. It may turn melodramatic, but it's beautifully directed and played, especially in the powerful final scenes.

Four Quartets dir-dir Marco Alessi
with Laurie Kynaston, Holly Styrene, Selali Fiamanya, Digby Llovet-Dinning, Mary Antony, Henry Felix, Otamere Guobadia, Darren Siah
18/UK 11m

Four Quartets

Four Quartets While preparing for a night out in London, Raf (Lynaston) is determined to have a good time and hook up with someone. As he arrived on the dance floor, he watches the boys around him and dances with friends, even as he's distracted by memories of his childhood, specifically his feelings of vulnerability as a young gay boy (Llovet-Dinning). Telling its story with virtually no dialog, the film is strikingly well shot and edited, capturing the rhythms of the music within the characters and their movement in a colourful nightclub. Images are lively and constantly in motion. And as the film shifts around between settings within Raf's mind, both fantasies and memories, there are nice insights into his emotional state, including a sense of longing that never quite coalesces beyond an imaginative flight of fancy. Where it clicks into gear is in the simple (subtitled) comment whispered to him on the dance floor: "Stop trying so hard." This is a cool reminder that the best things happen to you when you're least expecting them: don't forget to enjoy the moment.

A L S O   O N
No Ordinary Boy

Blood Out of a Stone
Blood Out of a Stone

dir Ben Allen
17/UK 14m 4/5

Between Here & Now
Between Here & Now

dir Jannik Splidsboel
18/Den 22min 3.5/5

Run(a)way Arab
Run(a)way Arab

dir Amrou Al-Kadhi
17/Bel 12m 3.5/5

cert 15 themes, language, violence 2.Mar.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall