Directed by Andrew Haigh. Starring Tom Cullen and Chris New. 96 minutes
We meet Russell and Glen. Both late 20s gay men living in England and trying to work out what they want in life. They meet Friday night and sleep together. Instead of ending it there they decide to see each other again later that day and realize they are really enjoying their time together, until Glen reveals he’s leaving for art school on Sunday. This is a sad reality for everyone of their (and my!) generation: expiry dates. There is always somewhere to go and something to do. It isn’t an issue for the two guys at first as they just spend time together and get to know each other. They’ve made an unlikely and real connection, even though they are very different and about to be separated.
I had heard that this movie was “the best gay movie ever” and it turned out to be one of the most accurate and genuine movies about my generation I’ve seen as well as a real step forward for queer cinema. I’m going to ignore the “Queer Cinema” aspect of this film for a second. The movie is about two young people doing what two different trendy young people do. One hangs out with old friends, works a steady job, bikes to work, dresses comfortably, quiet and reserved, lives alone with Value Village type kitchen wear. The other is a career-driven, art school student, outspoken and restless, lives with a trendy roommate, has a trendy job that’s “just for now,” and is constantly waiting/planning to leave. These two characters are everyone my age, in one sense or another. There’s a general sense of dissatisfaction and restlessness, and on the other hand, there is a back to basics, down to earth need.
This movie still falls under the category of “Queer Cinema” and when looking at niche film markets there will always be some really bad films. Whether they are ground breaking or very significant to the genre, they’re just bad. This film on the other hand is everything “queer cinema” has been needing. A lot of queer cinema over the years has been overly campy, overly sexual, lacking in plot, lacking in complex characters and too preachy. It’s so nice to see a film that is clearly about young gay men and about modern gay culture in England, but also about a real relationship and realistic characters. There are for sure some political issues being addressed during their time together (for example, the pair argue about gay marriage and showing affection in public) and there are sex scenes but they are all just backdrop to the connection these two men are feeling. The real thing that makes this film unique from other queer films is the details. The details are true to the characters and the story, not to the niche market.
What really makes this movie are the two players and the director, that sounds obvious but I really mean it! Andrew Haigh is a fairly new director (this the first film I’ve seen by him) and its obvious he knows what he wants to say. This whole film looks like iPhone photos taken in a friends apartment. The (very limited) soundtrack is carefully chosen and the lighting is almost all natural. The scenes look natural and comfortable. If he’s trying it doesn’t look it. The two actors (Tom Cullen and Chris New) are like comfortable old slippers; all their dialogue feel improvised, they are easy to watch, they have completely absorbed their characters. This movie is just an honest love story with all the inevitable bummers of a present day setting. I’m obviously thoroughly impressed by this film but I also just really liked it. A