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|See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 17.May.20
Boys on Film 20: Heaven Can Wait
Reviews by Rich Cline
release UK 18.May.20
20/UK Peccadillo 2h26
Marking two decades since its first collection of gay-themed short films, Peccadillo has gathered 11 strikingly well-made shorts from six countries. As with all of these kinds of compilations, some are stronger than others, but each one addresses a powerfully important theme with creativity and skill. All of them are pretty serious this time, including the two animated shorts, and most feature rather intense confrontations. The best ones include moments of vulnerability and real-life wit to both bring out the bigger themes and provoke a reaction in the viewer.
dir-scr Bassem Ben Brahim
From Tunisia, this beautifully hand-made animation tells the story of a boy born from a flower, happily playing with dolls as a child, embracing his inner femininity and discovering his sexuality as a teen. But an imam separates him from the boy he loves, his family rejects him, and the police take him into custody, leading to horrific torture and imprisonment. In the end, nature itself reaches out to care for him.
The dialog-free soundtrack initially features a giggling baby and a piano-based Beethoven score, leading into full-on orchestration. The colourfully hand-drawn, paper cut-out style allows the filmmaker to depict things with an almost documentary honesty, including shocking moments that would be unwatchable if performed by actors. This also offers a climactic shift into beautifully surrealism and an ultimately hopeful look at how the world is changing, even in Muslim-majority countries. In just six minutes, this is a remarkably honest depiction of the things thousands of young men go through, and it's beautifully infused with a prayer for humanity.
dir Mickey Jones
scr Thomas Sean Hughes, James Mallen
with Philip Olivier, Carl Loughlin, Chauntelle Bowler, Linzi Pallin-Stefanov, Tony Prince, John James Hart
Set in Liverpool, this British mini-drama touches on how a person who suppresses his or her sexuality can't hold out forever. Although the story itself is a little much. When his noisy neighbours wake him up again, Scott (Olivier) has finally had enough. But the policeman who comes around is his old friend Connor (Loughlin). Impulsively, Scott's friendly fiancee (Bowler) invites Connor to join Scott's stag night. But this reignites Scott's long-buried feelings. Confused and inebriated he goes in search of his old friend in a gay nightclub.
The drama feels oddly simplistic, quickly resorting to screaming instead of seeking a more nuanced approach to a complex situation. It's also a little annoying that it takes drugs and a lot of alcohol for Scott to admit the truth to himself. So where the plot goes feels both melodramatic and far too extreme. Basically, the screenwriters are trying too hard to make a statement, while the director's inexperience shows in some awkward editing and overwrought interaction. Still, this is an important topic, with huge ramifications. And at least this short raises the questions.
dir-scr Matthew Jacobs Morgan
with Joshua McGuire, John Macmillan
Set around a single conversation, this astute short drama cleverly tackles a realistic situation that's rarely addressed. After finally getting their baby daughter to sleep, two dads open up about their inner insecurities, namely the way Liam (McGuire) is feeling sidelined as a father because she's the biological daughter of his nitpicky partner Ben (Macmillan). So everything that happens means something different for him, leading to the sense that maybe she doesn't belong to him after all. "You have a daughter," Liam says, "I'm just helping to look after her."
This is a sharply well-observed look at relationship issues in general, the way people chip away at each other without realising it, and how saying something that seems innocuous takes on a momentous meaning for the person who is listening. The dialog is beautifully written and performed by these two excellent actors, with a continual stream of heart-stopping comments that are delivered in remarkably matter-of-fact ways. It's earthy and raw, acted with wrenching authenticity, expressing truthful feelings that are provocative and important.
dir-scr Dale John Allen
with Jordan Tweddle, Kane Surry, Lydia L'Scabies, Tracy Gabbitas, Matthew Heywood
Dont Blame Jack
A voiceover narration takes the viewer into the mind of Jack (Tweddle), a young man who has lost his faith in humanity and himself. This gives the film a somewhat indulgent tone, more written than conversational, which goes along with the carefully compiled imagery of sex, depression, loneliness and an unusually gloomy drag queen. But the thoughts and feelings are pungent, grabbing the attention in unexpected ways that offer a series of provocative kicks.
Jack is an artist who has had to slow down his out-of-control life and start taking meds. He misses his carefree personality and the highs of casual sex, and he's beginning to go stir crazy as he holes up in his flat, hiding from the world, wondering if he'll ever smile again. Then he meets Frank (Surry), who pushes him in some unexpected directions, leading Jack to open up about his mental illness in a group therapy session.
The film opens with a quote about how pivotal love is for human survival. But as it digs into Jack's frame-of-mind, it's the silent sections that say the most, as writer-director Allen merely watches Jack existing. And he's compellingly underplayed by Tweddle as a guy who has given up on life far too soon. There's a remarkable sex scene that evolves from friendly fun into something disturbing as it goes along, revealing a dark angle of self-loathing. And where this goes afterwards offers insight that's perhaps a bit preachy and overwritten, but also moving and strikingly important.
dir-scr Timothy Ryan Hickernell
with Timothy Ryan Hickernell, Lucio Nieto, Joshua Cruz, Mariel Matero, Joshua Warr, Elly Han, Anthony DeWitt
Set in New York, this introspective drama centres on an actor (played by writer-director Hickernell) who attends a dance show on his own because his friends are busy. Afterwards he decides to grab a drink and runs into an old friend (Cruz). He also meets one of the dancers, an Italian (Nieto), and they have an immediate spark. But does the connection they have feel too good to be true?
Early on, script feels a little preachy, immediately establishing the actor as a guy who is tired of the digital age, annoyed that friends communicate with text messages and lecturing others to get off their phones. There are also conversations about deleting apps and breaking the addiction to anonymous sex. Basically, this is a film about old-school attraction, meeting someone in person and following that moment where it leads organically.
In this case, some witty banter leads to a steamy night in that's played with earthy humour and a realistic sense of hope that maybe this will lead to something serious. Both lead actors are terrific. And as these men spend the next day together, their conversation is nicely underwritten, full of offhanded comments that reveal character detail and connect them on a deeper level. "How do you know this isn't love?" the Italian asks. The possibilities are endless.
dir-scr Jay Russell
with Peter Mark Kendall, Zachary Booth, Sydney James Harcourt, CK Allen, Enrico Rodriguez, Kurt Hellerich, Tim Ewing, Bruno Uribe
r u o k
A witty play on hook-up apps, this short comedy-drama is largely dialog-free, as characters speak to each other via text messaging. It centres on Alex (Kendall), who is trying to ignore a barrage of pings from his best friend Bryan (Booth), with whom he has had a falling out. Bryan wants to make things better, but Alex wants to be left alone to get on with his work, even as he keeps an eye on a hook-up app. It eventually emerges that Alex is annoyed that Brian slept with a guy he had a crush on. Their argument is honest and painful, leavened by their friendship. Meanwhile, Alex is also continually fending off interested guys who message him on the app. Then things take an unexpected turn.
Fast and witty, the film is strikingly well written and directed, as each character exists only within their own apartment, which allows for some visually punchy juxtapositions. The camerawork is particularly strong, skilfully matching movements and angles with on-screen text. And the editing is quick and snappy, keeping things feeling light even in some very serious moments. Both Kendall and Booth play their roles perfectly, conveying a realistic sense of anger and regret even as writer-director Russell keeps the tone snappy, which heightens the feelings without overstating them. And the story's punchline is both funny and provocative.
dir Chintes Lundgren
scr Chintis Lundgren, Drasko Ivezic
voices Trevor Boris, France Castel, Drasko Ivezic, Tyrone Benskin, Chintis Lundgren
From Estonia, this animated short uses witty line drawings to tell the story of Manivald (voiced by Boris), a fox who on his 33rd birthday still lives with his oversexed mother (Castel). Then hunky repairman Toomas (Ivezik) arrives to fix the washing machine, and both Manivald and his mum take an immediate interest, inviting Toomas to stick around. Mother sketches him in provocative poses, but he seems far more interested in the painfully shy Manivald.
The minimal dialog is flat-out hilarious, as these three characters skirt around each other with a riotous sense of insinuation. Just touching Toomas' hand sends Manivald on an imaginative flight of fancy that he clearly never imagined before. The film is packed with superb visual details that are funny and even sexy, amplified by the simple imagery and a fabulously textured score by Terence Dunn. And where the story goes is unexpected and surprisingly emotional, as life for this fox takes a major turn, forcing him to finally grow up and make his own decisions about his future. It's a beautiful little film.
dir Zoe McIntosh
scr Zoe McIntosh, Costa Botes
with David Lolofakangalo Rounds, Joe Folau, Lena Regan, Teresa Fa'alogo, Dallas Barnett, Vanessa Rare, Stephen Hassan, Hori Ahipene
17/New Zealand 15m
The World in Your Window
Gorgeously shot in stunning locations, this mini-drama quickly gets under the skin, putting the viewer right into the shoes of a young boy in a vivid junkyard environment of caravans and dry-docked boats. Jesse (Rounds) is an observant 8-year-old who worries about his grieving father (Folau), who won't get out of bed. Jesse tries to cheer him up with shoebox dioramas, which works a treat until he includes an image of his mum (Fa'alogo). Their neighbour Repa (Regan) is a burly, tattooed cross-dresser who drives a massive vintage Valiant and offers Jesse a lift to the shops. He also reaches out to help Jesse take some even more extreme action to force his dad to accept the past and face the future.
These people are outcasts living on the edge of civilisation, and their yearnings are strongly felt. The film is largely dialog-free, allowing the story to emerge through the faces of a very strong cast. And the world around them is like a character too, from their cluttered little community to lively surrounding neighbourhoods and some spectacular scenery. Rounds, Folau and Regan are engagingly expressive in their roles, three people in need of both a connection and a chance to break free. So where the film goes is deeply felt, lyrically letting the story unfold to offer a strong kick of emotion along with a fresh breath of hope.
A L S O O N
Heaven Can Wait
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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