Words: Jamie Tabberer; picture: Peccadillo
“I can’t f**k the same guy more than once," an intimacy-starved Harry (Matthew James Morrison) tells old romantic Johannes (Alexandros Koutsoulis), who he met on the dancefloor the night before, in director Daniel Sanchez Lopez's drama film Boy Meets Boy.
In a post-GPS app-based world, this is the case for many men who have sex with men. If you can't relate, you'll probably know someone who can. It's an almost tedious reality at this point, which Lopez brilliantly - and depressingly - sends up in scenes bookending the film, in which dialogue is replaced by the sound of Grindr notifications. (Never use it at the dinner table, people!)
Still, the statement prompted an intake of breath in this writer. When articulated out loud - and it rarely is - it's usually self-mocking, or community-mocking, or there's a hint of arrogance, or it's a cry for help. For Harry, it's none of the above. He says it so pragmatically, so matter-of-factly, it's like he's taken a truth serum. It's uncovering.
The boys, played with convincing chemistry by Morrison and Koutsoulis, have many such illuminating conversations during their 15 hours together. It's the close of Harry's hedonistic holiday, and Johannes is showing his new pal around. (Berlin has never looked so enticing in its sublime, battered ugliness).
Not that every conversation is enthralling, mind you. From inelegant speech (“I’m not the best person about knowing about relationships…”) to inexplicable pauses, you need to pay close attention to follow the meandering. And whether the guys are still high or coming down after their all-nighter - you feel exhausted just watching them, either way - there are many ‘what are you talking about?’ moments.
But it works. When Johannes trips on his English, when Harry fluffs his lines (“we don’t have all that,” he says of parents in loving relationships, when what he means “we don’t all have that”), it’s arrestingly true to life.
A little too true to life, perhaps. Boy Meets Boy is so simple and restrained, it makes spiritual cousin Weekend look as showy and sweepingly romantic as Call Me By Your Name. Its slow pace will doubtless test the patience and attention spans of some viewers; ironic, given a slight 75-minutes running time, that leaves it feeling somewhat incomplete. Were other, more conclusive epiphanies left on the cutting room floor?
Still, if you can acclimatise to the lack of cinematic scheming, Boy Meets Boy is hypnotic in its realism, and in its utterly familiar characters that every gay man in his 20s and 30s knows. It also makes a compelling argument about being open to meaningful human connection in all its forms.
On cinematic scheming, though, there were two plot contrivances I could've done without: First, that the guys conveniently disagree on everything, from religion to open relationships. Second, when they draw each other's portraits on Paint in an internet cafe. That would've taken ages!
Boy Meets Boy is out on DVD and digital streaming now.
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