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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

BOYS ON FILM 17: LOVE IS THE DRUG - Short Film Collection

Just in time for Christmas, Peccadillo is releasing its seventeenth collection of gay short films, which this time gathers films from the US, UK, Portugal, Sweden, Belgium and Canada. The theme this time is suitably vague “Love Is The Drug”, which obviously allows the films to be about… pretty much anything at all, as long as love is involved somehow or somewhere!

ALEX AND THE HANDYMAN kicks off the collection with an eerily black US comedy that depicts a nine year-old boy who idolises and befriends the handyman his mother employs to do odd-jobs around the house. A grungey stoner, the boy changes everything about himself and starts to weave a web of lies to try and arouse his interest, before events take a dark turn as Alex takes things too far. Anchored by a genuinely funny central performance by a superb child actor, this is a well-written and well-paced piece that will leave you begging for more!

Next up is Swedish MR SUGAR DADDY. Hans is an older man recently separated from his husband. Although feeling out of place in a nightclub, he begins to pursue a young and attractive young man, feeling liberated in his new emancipation, but the harsh reality of his situation is lurking just around the corner, waiting to rear its head. A rollercoaster of emotions, this proficient character-led short film follows him over the course of the night as we see the nightclub through his eyes.

SPOILERS is a British short that follows the early days of a relationship between two men after they meet on a plane, albeit told through a meta film-within-a-film, with nods to Brief Encounter and even Strangers On A Train. Looking at both the “happily ever after” ideal and the harsh reality of overcoming one’s own inner demons this is an ambitious short-film that crams a lot into its 22 minute runtime. Conversations with a talking lobster and a sassy Welsh sat-nav that answers back maybe push the envelope a little too far, but the relationship between the characters appears genuine and gives them room to catch their breath at the more serious and human moments.

Next is TELLIN’ DAD, a British film set in Liverpool that follows a man’s journey as he comes out to his family one by one, leading up to telling his Dad, played by Ricky Tomlinson. In what initially appears to be a gritty story about archaic values entrenched in a deprived urban family, the film has a delightfully twenty-first century twist that is reminiscent of Shameless in its hey-day.

BOYS is an American short that depicts an evening on which two teenage best friends find themselves exploring their relationship in a way they haven’t before. A tense and honest film about sexual discovery, this is a bold piece of realism that explores young sexuality in a way rarely seen on screen. A piece that encapsulates the complex feelings around sexuality experienced at that age, this is a daring piece of cinema that edges but never oversteps the line between discomfort and shock, mostly due to how recognisable its characters are.

HOLE is a Canadian film that gives a daring portrait of a profoundly disabled man who yearns for intimacy in a world that would rather forget he exists. Helped by a carer who understands his need to enact his sexual needs, this is a tender and bold piece that shows sex as being an important need for everyone. Unflinching its depiction of the reality of disability, this is a striking film that calls for real adult thought and understanding.

HAPPY AND GAY is a black and white pastiche of early Disney, with two same-sex Minnie/Mickey Mouse-esque couples who come up against homophobia from the police, the church and their community. A delightful parody of the quirks of early animation, this is a cute and innocent glance at homophobia seen through the eyes of a child.

Portuguese PEDRO follows a boy and his mother on a lethargic trip to a deserted beach together. After staying out all night, Pedro is not feeling enthused by his mother’s attempts to get him motivated, but when he sees a handsome stranger come out of the sea, he finds the energy to pursue him into the sand dunes. With long segments of young men against sand, sea and sky, this is like a teenage Stranger By The Lake, with even the characters resembling those of the French LGBT masterpiece.The collection concludes with

KISS ME SOFTLY, a Belgian film that follows a young boy who has been living in the shadow of his father, a local karaoke star. When a male friend kisses him out of the blue, he decides that it’s his turn to take centre-stage. A sweet story about first love, this is an interesting character piece that plays with silence and semiotics of the unsaid.

Altogether, Boys On Film 17: Love Is The Drug is a strong collection that brings together some exciting pieces of cinema. While HOLE and PEDRO are probably the strongest pieces of cinema, ALEX AND THE HANDAYMAN is definitely the most entertaining and is probably worth acquiring the collection for by itself.


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