As part of our coverage of the 25th BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Colin Warriner finds ‘Expectations’, a selection of short films, meets his.
Switzerland (dir. Tamer Ruggli)
More or Less
Brazil (dir. Alexander Antune Siqueira)
We Once Were Tide
UK (dir. Jason Bradbury)
Wild Horses (Cavalos selvagens)
Portugal (dir. André Santos, Maro Leão)
UK/Finland (dir. Miikka Leskinen)
Introducing this series of short films, one of the Festival programmers joked that this selection had a ‘sad gay boy’ theme, and that certainly seemed to be a motif that reoccurred in each of these five pieces.
The first, Cappuccino, focuses on endearingly awkward Jeremy (Benjamin Décosterd) as he juggles life with his intrusive mother (Manuela Biedermann) and his crush on classmate Damien (Anton Ciurlia). Unrequited teenage love is a familiar story – sometimes painfully so – but handled confidently here, without becoming melodramatic. Décosterd is suitably vulnerable as things don’t go to plan, but towards the end your attention may be drawn more to Biedermann’s strong turn as his mother.
More or Less is, at first glance, the least polished of the five, but its simple (albeit not as much so as it seems) story of homophobic bullying in school holds its own among them. Another awkward young man, Ivo (Jholl Bauer), faces constant violent harassment from Sandro (Kyel Lima – who portrays seething rage very convincingly). The reveal, when it comes, is perhaps a bit predictable, but the build-up to it is well constructed.
A feeling of isolation permeates the sparse and sad We Once Were Tide: figuratively and visibly in its Isle of Wight setting. The scenery is desolate and dark under gloomy clouds: low, rolling hills sweeping down to end in murky beaches. Everything is shot through with melancholy, as Anthony (Alex Scott) sullenly looks after his invalid mother and tries to snatch what moments of happiness he can with Kyle (Tristan Bernays). Their intimacy is tender and believable, which makes it all the more affecting when it becomes clear their bond is doomed to be broken. To a careful viewer, much is conveyed in minute gestures, like the pulling over of a duvet.
Wild Horses could perhaps be more accurately described as a visual tone poem, were it not for the fact the actors (directors André Santos and Marco Leão) speak no words. Understandably, this makes it rather difficult to follow, as its sequences (beautifully shot through they are) flow unconnectedly. It raises the question of whether things like dialogue and narrative are needed when there is emotional truth, but in this instance it doesn’t feel enough.
The final piece in the selection, Small-time Revolutionary, is the strongest, and boasts off-screen cameos from Michael Cashman and Sir Ian McKellen. Set in 1988 as the Conservative government prepares to pass Section 28, Russell (Alexander Barnes) is pressured by his (straight) activist friends to finally come out to his parents. His home is a terrarium of middle class ennui, perfectly summed up by the brochure for Swindon Business School left on his bed by his hectoring mother (Carol Holt). She is prim and domineering, a mélange of Margarets: Thatcher and Leadbetter. Disagreement from her son or meek husband is ‘mutiny’ and she stalks the house in pearls. She is perhaps overplayed a little, but very funny. Yet the film achieves real poignancy when Alexander finally does the deed, with a well conceived and acted sequence of quiet despair. It wouldn’t sustain a feature-length running time, but as a short it is a sweet and compact gem.
See So So Gay‘s full LLGFF coverage here.