The Boys On Film collection of gay-themed short films has proved far more successful than you would expect – after all, shorts on DVD have rarely found an audience. However, thanks to the quality of the films it’s now on its 13th instalment, but that doesn’t mean this one is unlucky. So what does it have in store amongst its 10 shorts? Take a look below to find out more.
And you can see what we think of other Boys On Film releases here.
Surprise – dir. Leslie Bumgarner (Canada) 9 mins 2015
Teenager Jack’s mother wants to talk to him about something. It soon becomes clear there’s something pressing she wants to get off her chest, but she isn’t sure whether Jack will understand the evolution she’s going through – especially as he’s got something rather different he needs to reveal. Surprise is a sweet and simple film that captures the dynamic between a mother and teenage child who love each other but exist on slightly different wavelengths. It also has a great ending which is likely to leave a smile on your face (as long as you’re not too shocked by naughty words).
8 out of 10
Boygame – dir. Anna Nolskog (Sweden) 14mins 2012
Friends John and Nicolas certainly have no problem talking about girls and who they’d like to date, however when it comes to actually doing something about it in real life things get trickier. After watching porn they decide to wank off together, which ends up revealing their sexual worries – to try to deal with this they decide they need more practice, and they’ve only got one another to try on. Boygame is sometimes funny, sometimes sexy and it will also get you to think, wondering whether the boys really do want practice or if they’re actually using that as an excuse. Their oddly matter-of-fact discussion about what they’re doing belies the intimacy of their actions, giving an interesting viewpoint on a sexually more open generation and the complexities that this can bring to friendship.
7 out of 10
Caged – dir. Lazlo and Dylan Tonk (Netherlands) 13 mins 2014
David and Neils are great friends, but the group they hang out with is horribly homophobic, which erupts when they see David’s girlfriend with her gay friend. David is certain he could never be friends with someone who is gay, but then Niels does something that surprises everyone. While very watchable and occasionally emotionally potent, Caged is also a little too on the nose at times and the friends’ anti-gay animus feels a little forced and contrived for the purpose of the point it’s trying to make (not that it’s too far off the mark though), but it still works and by not going too far over the top with its resolution, it works.
6 out of 10
VIS-A-VIS – dir. Dan Connolly (Australia) 16mins 2013
Ricky is Australian and Martin is British, and the Aussie government wants to check they really are a couple in order to approve Martin’s visa application. The official turns up and it soon becomes clear things aren’t all they appear and the men may actually be hiding something. At first I wasn’t sure about this short, as Ricky’s brash campiness seemed so over the top that it felt insultingly stereotypical. However, the film quickly shows it knows exactly what it’s doing and that it’s not just in on the joke but that it’s actively playing on those stereotypes – or at least the men are. At times very funny, the short plays with people’s ideas of what being gay is and how you’d convince someone you really were into boys. Although it makes light of something that in real life can be pretty serious – having to prove you’re gay in order to get asylum can be a fraught experience, for example – it does have some charm, although it may leave you wondering whether the tale ends the way it ought to.
5 out of 10
Followers – dir. Tim Marshall (UK/Australia) 8mins 2014
After winning the Iris Prize LGBT Short Film festival with Gorilla, Tim Marshall created Followers using the award he’d been given, which is about an older woman called Lyn, who becomes obsessed with a new man who’s arrived in her town, Rutendo, after she sees a vision of Jesus in his swimming shorts. It’s an odd premise but one that’s surprisingly sweet, sometimes sad and thought provoking, as a lonely, somewhat isolated woman finds something new in her life, even if things get a bit complicated when Rutendo begins to wonder what she’s really been staring at. Followers is an entertaining film that crams a lot into just eight minutes, with an interesting take on what isolation is and the ways we try to find connection.
8 out of 10
Kissing Drew – dir. Philip J. Connell (Canada) 8 mins 2013
What do you do if you’re in love with your bully? While it might seem an odd idea, there are plenty of people out there who will know that love and hate can be close together. That’s the situation here, where teenager Drew fantasises about ‘cool kid’ James, but also has to deal with the fact James bullies him for being gay. The short moves between an almost lyrical romanticism and being fairly intense. As you may expect, there are hints that there’s more to James’ bullying than meets the eye, and Drew’s ‘revenge’ is an interesting one, which brings up plenty of ideas.
7 out of 10
A Last Farewell – dir. Casper Andreas (Sweden) 12mins 2013
Casper Andreas has had a fair amount of success in America directing gay-themed movies such as Going Down In La La Land and The Big Gay Musical. However, A Last Farewell takes him back to his native Sweden and sees him in more serious mode with a film about an aging author. The man is difficult and angry, snapping at his pregnant daughter and seemingly unwilling to help the two of them reconnect. It becomes apparent though that his anger is not pure venom, but due to the fact he is grieving for his late husband and doesn’t know what to do with his feelings about what happened at the very end. Although it takes a somewhat convenient left turn about halfway through (at least exposition-wise), it’s a well-made film that has a huge amount of pathos for the grieving process.
6 out of 10
Middle Man – dir. Charlie Francis (UK) 4 mins 2014
Even if it is only four minutes long, Middle Man is certainly based on an interesting idea. Nathan and Frankie have had an argument, and as one of them is hearing-impaired, if Nathan is going to explain what happened over the phone, he needs to use a type-to-talk service, which means someone needs to be in the middle transcribing what each is saying to the other. It’s simple but witty, with the middle man getting increasingly involved in the argument that’s going on, even if he does have to remain a purely professional conduit. Although some won’t like the little kick the short feels the need to add at the end, it should still make you smile.
7 out of 10
Remission – dir. Christopher Brown (UK) 18 mins 2013
There aren’t many post-apocalyptic gay-themed films out there, but Remission gives it a go (even if the gay side is only a small part of it). After a deadly virus has wiped out most of the population, two men try to survive out in the countryside, along with a third (who is obviously damaged and virtually mute), who they’ve picked up along the way. However, they begin to worry that their new companion is putting them at risk, which causes them to consider drastic actions. Remission is a rather dark and disturbing film, which constantly plays with whether its heroes are actually its villains, especially when you discover how they may be exploiting their companion in return for keeping him safe, and what they will all do to survive – or to kill. It’s certainly not a lot of fun – in fact it’s pretty dark and unsettling right the way through – but it is very watchable.
7 out of 10
Mirrors – dir. Neil Ely (UK) 11mins 2014
Shameless actor Jody Lathan has almost inadvertently become a stalwart of gay-themed British cinema, having appeared in the likes of Celluloid and Three In A Bed (and acting as executive producer of both), as well as this short. He plays a young man called Luke, who goes into a nightclub toilet with another guy (Skin’s Liam Boyle) to take some drugs. As they chat they begin to realise their lives are surprisingly similar – not least that both are alone in a gay club but say they have girlfriends, although don’t seem 100% certain whether they are completely straight. Soon the similarities in their lives – and the narcotics – have them revealing hidden thoughts. It’s a simple idea but Mirrors manages to find a surprising honesty in its premise, realising that nightclub toilets are odd spaces used for all sorts of things, only a small part of which involves using them for what they’re meant for. It’s a short that’s well worth a look.
7 out of 10.
Overall Verdict: Another great entry in the Boys On Film collection, with plenty of good shorts that range from the funny to the genuinely disturbing.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac