7 Minutes ***
Starring: Antoine Herbez, Clément Naline, Valentin Malguy, Paul Arvenne
Director: Ricky Mastro
Boyfriends Maxime (Malguy) and Kevin (Arvenne) are having a drug-fuelled night of sex when the latter overdoses and passes away in their bed. The next day, both men’s bodies are found hanged in their Berlin hotel room. The autopsy states that there were seven minutes between the two’s deaths and Jean (Herbez), Maxime’s father, begins a quest to find out what happened in those missing minutes. He meets Fabien (Naline), a confident and cocksure mutual friend, who introduces him to the sordid club-scene that his son had very much been a part of.
Documentary Chemsex shone a light on the world of gay sex parties in 2015 and 7 Minutes feels like a dramatisation of its themes. This is a no-holds-barred depiction of twenty-first century clubland, with muscle-bound insta-clones feeding their drug and sex addictions with each other. Maxime, Kevin and Fabien are depicted as allegiants of this lifestyle, dancing zombie-like into bed together, with GHB in their drink and a bump of cocaine at the ready. The casualness of their drug-use is striking, but also the sign of a filmmaker who has seen this world and gone to great lengths to reproduce its hedonism.
At no stage does Mastro cast any judgement on his subjects for their behaviour. This is not a film that condemns or glorifies addiction, but instead seeks to explain its characters’ actions. Kevin died of an overdose, but it’s the moral conundrum that Maxime faced in the seven minutes afterwards that drives the narrative of this film. And it’s fascinating to watch Jean, an older man introduced to a world that he could understandably have been appalled by, instead find himself beguiled and bewitched by it, drawn in by the thumping music, mesmeric lights and bare-chested muscle-bound Adonises.
Narratively, the film goes disappointingly askew in its final act, focusing more on Jean’s grief than on the world he has uncovered. As an exposé of the underbelly of gay nightlife, the first two thirds work incredibly well, but as a character piece, it feels staid and stunted. But with a throbbing soundtrack 7 Minutes does what very few movies manage, which is to capture adeptly what makes clubbing so very enticing to countless pleasure-seekers worldwide.
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