It’s interesting that in the last few years a real gay movie ‘industry’ has sprung up, with its own actors and stars. Writer/director Rob Williams has previously made the gay-themed likes of 3-Day Weekend, Make The Yuletide Gay and Role/Play, and now he’s back with The Men Next Door. To help him he’s pulled together a cast who’ve been seen in various other gay movies, such as Benjamin Lutz (The Love Patient, Bite Marks), Mark Cirillo (The Seminarian), Christopher Schram (Requited) and Ronnie Kroell (Eating Out: Drama Camp, Into The Lion’s Den), along with some others who are newer to the LGBT flick game.
Eric Dean stars as Doug, who’s having a really bad 40th birthday as all his friends have cancelled on him, and his only guest is a rather nutty female stripper that his brother sent him as a joke. When Colton (Lutz) knocks on his door, Doug assumes he’s his brother’s male stripper make-up gift. However it turns out Colton is the new next door neighbour. Soon the two men are seeing each other, but Colton isn’t the only one Doug is dating, as he’s also going out with Jacob.
Colton is 10 years younger than Doug, while Jacob is 10 years older, but it’s not just their age difference that adds a bit of spice to the 40-year-old’s life, as what he doesn’t initially realise is that they are father and son! The script is smart in exploring the generational differences in a subtle way, delineating what it’s like for a gay man who only came out later in life, as well for a father and son who want the best for one another even in the most difficult/unusual of circumstances.
The characterisation is the film’s greatest strength, with the three main men all well thought out modern gay men. The script has interesting things to say about the generation divide (if there is one) and thankfully never delves into cheap stereotypes – Colton or Jackson is not a simple choice between twink and sugar daddy. Each of these men offers something different to Doug, making the decision between them exceedingly tough. That said, the choice could be taken away from Doug if he doesn’t make up his mind about what he really wants fairly quickly.
Elsewhere there are a few issues with the film, most of which surround the indie film bugbear of exposition. Colton’s friends and brother often come across as barely concealed ciphers, giving Colton an excuse to bluntly state everything he’s thinking and feel in a slightly clumsy way. While this could have gotten rather tedious, the script smartly reserves some of the best moments of humour for these scenes, so that while they are essentially rather brusque and low-rent ways to keep things moving along and reveal Doug’s thoughts, they’re also pretty amusing.
Those with more prurient minds will also be pleased that the film sticks with the laws of gay screenplays. These rules are pretty much the same as for normal screenplays, except for the fact you must show a penis within the first 10 minutes. It doesn’t matter whose, and indeed you never have to see that person again (which is true here), but there must be a penis. The Man Next Door also offers some bonus man bits in one of the ballsiest (pun intended) dick moments I’ve seen in a long time, where one of the characters randomly decides partway through a conversation he shouldn’t be wearing underwear and so strips down for no real reason whatsoever. Actors nearly always says they only do nudity when it’s intrinsic to the story, so I’d love to know what Rob Williams told Mark Cirillo to convince him he needed to get his cock out (but as I noted in my Seminarian review, if I looked like Mark Cirillo does naked, I’d randomly strip off a lot more too).
Away from the odd moment of nudity, Men Next Door is a rather sweet film, with some moments of real humour and a heart that’s definitely in the right place. The script could perhaps have done with a little more finessing, but that’s more to sand off some rough edges than because it’s actually doing anything wrong.
I think it will be particularly enjoyed by gay men over 40, who are all too often ignored by gay cinema – in our youth-obsessed culture, it’s assumed that even older guys just want to watch twinky youngsters running around. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s far more entertaining than an awful lot of LGBT-themed movies.
Overall Verdict: A fun gay rom-com that takes a look at the generation divide without immediately descending into tired stereotypes. Instead it looks at age as being less about numbers and more about what individual people can offer.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac