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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 15.Apr.24

Boys on Film 24: Happy Endings  
Reviews by Rich Cline
boys on film 24
release UK 19.Apr.24
24/UK Peccadillo 2h53

Beautiful Stranger
There are 11 films on this final edition of the long-running series of short film collections. They were made in countries around the globe from 2019 to 2023, and most deal beautifully with unspoken desire. Peccadillo has said that this is the final compilation. But it's not easy to watch short films outside film festivals, and these queer shorts are particularly important. Hopefully they'll increasingly be available online.

vogrincic and molina
dir-scr Diego Alvarez Parra
with Enzo Vogrincic, Alejandro Mata Molina, Carolina Gonzalez, Agustina Mandacen, Brandon Torres
22/Uruguay 15m

Sea Sparkles  
Noctilucas   4/5

Sea Sparkles Shot in a slick style like a feature film, this Uruguayan short has a sexy set-up that leads into a nighttime conversation about the expectations we all have about our lives. It's beautifully shot and edited, culminating in a gorgeous sequence on a phosphorescent beach. And it makes its point with warmth and humour that get under the skin.

In the house before he leaves Uruguay to find a better future, Lucas (Vogrincic) meets up with Juan (Molina) for a hotel room steamy hookup. Chatting on the balcony before parting, Juan reveals that only arrived here from Venezuela a week ago, and he finds it much more free and peaceful than back home. But Lucas thinks it's boring and even suffocating here, and wants to live more fully somewhere else.

Both Vogrinic and Molina give performances that are engaging, earthy and natural, with a relaxed smile. As these two men talk, they quietly challenge each others' perspectives. Later, as they get lost trying to find Juan's home, Lucas begins thinking about the decisions he has made and why it is that he's in such a hurry to get out of here. It's so gently provocative that we barely realise that it's making us think very deeply indeed.

Portiansky and friend
dir-scr Itai Jamshy with Nadav Portiansky, Avi Golomb, Yonatan Kubani, Benny Kvodi, Yonit Apple, Ami Weinberg, Adi Weidberg, Lia Krichali
20/Israel 15m


Aloof Intensely personal, this quietly lusty short drama from Israel focusses on a young guy who struggles to let himself relax in sexually charged situations. Writer-director Jamshy adds some offbeat surreal touches along the way that add intriguing edges to the film's exploration of identity, desire and purpose.

In sunny Tel Aviv, photographer Yariv (Portiansky) shyly snaps photos of men on the beach while he's also taking pics at a child's birthday party. This is intercut with his visit to a gay sauna, where he timidly watches the other men doing things he wishes he could do. Then he encounters a guy in a blindfold and feels able to take control.

Portiansky has strong presence as a man who feels like an outsider even within his own extended family. He is bursting with lusty longing but afraid of his shadow, while everyone around him is much more forthright about what they want, from the parents of the birthday girl to the hairy men prowling around the sauna. The film is remarkably thoughtful and complex in the way it depicts this situation, even if it also remains a little out of reach.

dir-scr Fabia Martin
with Jack Holden, Sally Saunders, Chris Gallarus, Imogen Smith, John Dalton, Nigel Thomas, Tamsin Fessey, Cohen Bates, Betty Bestall
21/UK 15m

The Rev  

The Rev Amusingly droll, this British short centres around a guy whose dull daily routine contrasts with the more colourful life he used to have. Eventually, this sparky inner spirit emerges in a big fantasy sequence that's cleverly choreographed and performed by an up-for-it cast. There isn't much to it, but it's a smile-inducing blast of glitter.

We open on young priest Neil (Holden) as he gets into his professional garb in preparation for a low-key service attended by a meagre congregation. He then presides over a subdued bingo game before going home for a microwave meal. Months pass like this, but his old friends remind him of his more sparky musical past. Then he's asked to perform a funeral and lets his imagination run away.

Even if the film takes its time, and remains rather subdued, it's fun to watch Rev Neil quietly begin realising that he doesn't need to abandon his lively personality traits just because he's a man of the cloth. While it all feels a bit simplistic, the extended musical dance sequence at the end allows for some catharsis even if it's only in his mind. Perhaps one day he'll let this dancing queen out of her box.

sandoval and jimenez
dir Alejandro Sandoval Bertin, Sara Larrota
scr Alejandro Sandoval Bertin
with Alejandro Sandoval Bertin, Andres Jimenez, Katherine Guzman, Angela Astudillo, Juan David Rios, Camilo Luque, Daniela Vasquez, Sara Larrota
19/Colombia 10m

Preludio   3/5

Prelude Opening with home video clips that give background to the central character, this film quickly helps us understand a young man's mindset as he finds himself in a stressful situation. Writer-codirector Sandoval Bertin is clearly recalling his own experience here, including those clips of himself as a child. So there's an emotional undercurrent that grabs hold.

While preparing for a competition, young pianist Samuel (Sandoval Bertin) is struggling to focus. He has been playing for most of his life, but is struggling with his performance piece. As he grapples with this, he recalls going to nightclubs, kissing both men and women on the dance floor, then attempting to balance music with his relationship with actor boyfriend Camilo (Jimenez).

Shot with intensely introspective camerawork, the film is a mood piece that pulls the audience into the deeper thoughts and feelings Samuel is wrestling with. It feels simplistic that no one has ever told him that he needs to play from the heart, but the film is a nice reminder that music is about much more than technical expertise. And that talent is about more than giving a perfect performance.

woorward, huynh and carrion-weiss
dir-scr Benjamin Belloir
with Baptiste Carrion-Weiss, Shane Woodward, Daphne Huynh, Francois Legrand
21/France 26m

Beautiful Stranger  

Beautiful Stranger A snarky sense of humour livens up this witty French short film, which has a terrific visual sensibility as it sends its protagonist on an odyssey of discovery as he encounters some unexpectedly disruptive people. The set-up is more than a little silly, but there's also a point to where it goes. And there's even a surprisingly sexy dance break.

Stuck in traffic in a taxi, Romain (Carrion-Weiss) is dumped over the phone by his boyfriend of four years. So he leaves the car in the pouring rain and checks into a hotel nearby. Flustered, he goes on a dating app and invites an American guy (Woodward) over. But he's very full-on, and Romain needs just a bit of romance. Then they're interrupted by the hotel's feisty receptionist (Huynh), and things take another turn.

As Romain speaks to this beefy man, their conversation takes several enjoyably startling turns, and the actors cleverly portray the contrast between them. But this openly sensual American has to work to loosen the uptight Romain. Writer-director Belloir and the three terrific actors have a lot of fun with the characters and situations as the tone shifts from goofy to sizzlingly hot. And it also gets rather sweet.

hodson and mcclain
dir-scr Jeremy McClain
with Jeremy McClain, Marcus Hodson
23/UK 11m

You Like That  

You Like That With offbeat florid touches, this Scottish short film looks great as it invokes imagery from lavish period movies. There are moments of realism scattered in alongside rather a lot of dream-like imagery, as actor-filmmaker McClain takes the audience on a journey into the mind of an artist who is looking for an epic love story of his own.

It's set in Edinburgh, where American art student Joshua (McClain) makes ends meet making historical romance-style videos for his subscribers. But he's actually a shy guy who is hoping to make a real connection with someone. And tonight he's feeling nervous and hopeful about his date with Sebastian (Hodson).

Because he is so immersed in 19th century art, Joshua sees this encounter with Sebastian as if it's from a period movie, with elaborate costumes and lots of swirling white fabric. As a result, the film becomes misty-eyed and a bit out of reach, spinning around in Joshua's mind with sensual imagery edited separately from the sound. It's somewhat indulgent, but also immersive and sexy.

doireau and febie
dir-scr Arthur Cahn
with Quentin Febie, Pierre-Francois Doireau, Claina Clavaron, Fama Koita, Komett Boussama
21/France 19m

Thursday, Friday, Saturday  
Jeudi, Vendredi, Samedi   4.5/5

Thursday, Friday, Saturday Relaxed and witty, this imaginative French short captures the meandering rhythms of three aimless summer days. The gorgeous settings are skilfully shot with a wonderful attention to both the wider landscapes and the smallest details. Writer-director Arthur Cahn tells the story in a remarkably understated way that brings the characters vividly to life.

After a fire in the factory where he works, Romain (Febie) and his fretful colleague Ademar (Doireau) decide to enjoy the summer days. On Thursday, Romain goes skinny dipping in a nearby lake while Ademar worries about his swimsuit. Especially when they meet some teachers who are on strike. On Friday, Romain feels unwell, so he has a rest while Ademar works around the house. Then they spend the day together on Saturday.

Scenes unfold at a gentle pace, catching knowing moments of connection between these men as they decide to get out into nature, doing nothing in particular. Their camaraderie is subtle and beautifully underplayed. On these quiet days, they enjoy the simpler things. They also realise they don't want this to end, feeling like these days have brought them back to life. And the final scene is delicately beautiful.

suchod and van rampelberg
dir-scr Anthony Schatteman
with Geert Van Rampelberg, Samuel Suchod, Anna Sacuto, Cathy Ruiz, Ilja Van Autreve
21/Belgium 23m

L’Homme Inconnu  

L'Homme Inconnu Set in the South of France in the late 1970s, this strikingly well-made Belgian drama evokes powerful feelings of summertime, longing and the nature of storytelling itself. Writer-director Schatteman shoots in period style, making the most of locations and the varying quality of light. A moving meditation on both creativity and the passing of time, it's played with sensitivity and beautifully shot with an attention to tiny details.

Heading to the Cote d'Azur in his red convertible coupe, middle-aged Flemish writer Louis (Van Rampelberg) is hoping that isolating himself in a house with a sea view will inspire his work. Bathing on the rocks nearby, he spots sexy young couple Tommy and Melanie (Suchod and Sacuto). So he goes to check them out. And meeting Tommy sparks both his lust and his imagination.

There's a plaintive quality to the photography and editing that help put the audience into Louis' mindset, seeing through his curious eyes as he gazes at Tommy's body and fantasises even further about where their encounter might go. All of this cleverly captures a powerful sense of unspoken yearning that takes some unnervingly Highsmith-esque turns along the way. So in the end, this knowing little film is remarkably haunting.

A L S O   O N
Happy Endings

We Collide
We Collide
dir-scr Jason Bradbury
with Max Thomas, Jerome Scott
23/UK 2m 4/5

Reviewed at BFI Flare 2024


dir-scr Lloyd Eyre-Morgan, Neil Ely
with George Webster, Sam Retford
20/UK 16m 4/5


dir-scr Jesse Ung
with David Shi, Kelvin Ta
21/NZ 17m 4/5

Reviewed at BFI Flare 2022

cert 18 themes, language, violence, sexuality 14.Apr.24

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© 2024 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall