Starring: Pip Brignall, Jo Weil
Director: Mark Wilshin
It’s been two whole decades since we fell in love with Jesse and Celine in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, but ever since, filmmakers around the globe have fancied that they too can tell the stories of people who fall in love overnight… not least Linklater himself in his (arguably superior) sequels. And nobody has taken more to these films than LGBT cinema. In recent years, Weekend, Theo & Hugo and Room In Rome have all made us fall in love as their characters fell in love, giving us unfettered access to a couple’s first night together. Sodom is another of these films, which we can probably call a genre in its own right now. Let’s call them the “One Night Only” films.
Will (Brignall) is a 20 year old footballer on his stag-do in an unnamed European city (although a 10 second Google of the featured metro stop shows that it’s Berlin). He has been left drunk, naked and handcuffed to a lamppost by his friends, where he is discovered by Michael (Weil), who finds him some clothes and helps free him. They return to Michael’s flat where it’s pretty clear that they are attracted to each other, but with Will due to marry his high school girlfriend immediately upon his return to the UK, his actions with this handsome older man feel disconnected from reality. However, as the night wears on, it’s clear that there is more than just a sexual connection between the two.
Coincidentally, Michael is a retired footballer (because apparently footballers only attract other footballers). However, the characters’ association with football appears to be in name only, because it makes very little difference to the plot and serves only as a mechanism to demonstrate their tremendous “masculinity”. With The Pass and Mario actually covering this territory adeptly in the last two years, this arbitrary context feels tacked on, with the characters having something in common and yet not actually talking about their shared passion – which seems somewhat unlikely. And with Will sounding almost Etonian when he speaks, he doesn’t really resemble any UK footballers I can think of.
This is a film that toes the line between Drama and eroticism. There are several highly sexualised sequences and nudity aplenty – Michael doesn’t put on a shirt for the film’s entire runtime – but the film is trying terribly hard to be a slice of romantic realism. In some respects it succeeds, depicting the chit-chat, the sex, the get-to-know-yous; but at times, this proves pretty mundane. Where Weekend succeeds (it was the #1 on The Pink List, after all) is that the stakes around the characters’ time together are really high. There is an attempt to raise that here with Will both in the closet and engaged, but that only really becomes an issue in the last fifteen minutes. The film forgets about its narrative for about 70% of its runtime, which makes its ending feel disconnected from the rest of the story.
The characters are likeable enough, however. Pip Brignall is foppish and sweet, while I defy anyone not to be seduced by the charm and good-looks of Jo Weil. He’s handsome as hell and the couple’s chemistry keeps the film bubbling away at a slow boil. For all the film’s problems, their connection is strong enough to surmount the window-dressing and make for a compelling character piece… except if you can get through the last few minutes without swearing in annoyance at the screen then you’re stronger person than me. And don’t get me started on the weird metaphorical ocean-shots peppered lightly through the film and the weird camera-flares in the first scene that serve unfortunately only to distract from the realism they’ve worked so hard to build.
This does little to reinvent my newly named “One Night Only” genre; nor is it essential viewing, but for a sexy little romance, it ticks most of the right boxes. But as to why it's called Sodom, your guess is as good as mine. Unless, of course, someone is trying to say Berlin is a city of corruption and sin...