Just Friends ****
Starring: Majid Mardo, Josha Stradowski, Jenny Arean, Tanja Jess
Director: Annemarie van de Mond
Teen LGBT coming-of-age romances from Europe are ten-a-penny nowadays, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want any more of them. Dutch Just Friends is a solid romance with charismatic leads that makes you yearn to be in your late teens and frolicking about in fields of wheat… just like Theresa May! But with more shirtless men.
Joris (Stradowski) lives with his mother (Jess). Theirs is a dysfunctional relationship, with both still grieving for the loss of his father. While his mother has dealt with it by spending as much of her inheritance as she can on a house, furnishings and plastic surgery, Joris has become reclusive, burning off his anger at the gym and only really able to have a relationship with his grandmother (Arean). But then along comes the handsome Yad (Mardo), his grandmother’s new home help. A Syrian Jew whose family have made the Netherlands their home, he is instantly attracted to Joris and the pair fall swiftly in love. But with unresolved issues in both their families rearing their unwelcome heads, can the pair manage to stay together? Or would it be better if they were just friends?
The film is luscious in its depiction of life in the Dutch countryside. The sun is always shining, the fields are golden and the sea looks beautifully cool. This is a halcyon depiction of romance, in which the backdrop is picturesque, the characters are wealthy and the leads are drop dead gorgeous. While fairly unattainable in its execution, there’s something aspirational about this romance that makes even Love, Simon look low-gloss. This is surely the first love that every gay man wants.
The relationship is fairly low-risk in terms of the obstacles the two must overcome, but it is fairly indicative of the world we’re living in today in which young people have unachievably high expectations of the perfection their partner should embody. Does this make them irritating? A little. Do we still want to be them? Absolutely. And so if you want pure romantic escapism, this does exactly what it says on the tin.
OUT ON 13TH MAY 2019 ON DVD AND ON DEMAND, RELEASED BY PECCADILLO PICTURES.