Brookside and Hollyoaks actor Leon Lopez heads for the writer and director’s chair with Soft Lad, which follows David (Jonny Labey), a young gay guy who is having an affair with the older Jules (Daniel Brocklebank). What seriously complicates things is that Jules is David’s brother-in-law, and they are having sex behind David’s sister’s back.
David wants more, but Jules is still in denial about his sexuality (even if he can’t hold his jealousy about David in check) and both know there will be major fallout if the secret comes out. After an argument with Jules, David meets Sam (Craig Stein), who offers him the relationship he really wants. However, Jules’ lies cause more problems than David ever expected.
There is no doubt that everyone put a lot of effort into Soft Lad, and the cast do extremely well with the material. However, the movie often takes things a little too far and comes across as rather melodramatic and histrionic.
Admittedly, having an affair with your brother-in-law isn’t a good way to ensure family harmony. However, when the plot gets to that admission it feels a little over-the-top, with an edge of after-school special about it. The movie takes things further than it need to and by the end it doesn’t feel like it’s earned what it wants to do, or that it’s properly dealt with the issues that it’s brought up.
From the beginning David and Jules are engaged in something that most people would consider to be pretty abominable, but until it explodes into reams of weeping and crying, it slightly glosses over the absolute betrayal of what they’re doing. Soft Lad does eventually try to underline the potential repercussions of the lies, deceit, repression and irresponsibility of what’s going on, but because it feels like it’s slightly been trying to give the characters a free pass on the audience empathy side up to that point, it doesn’t fully work.
SPOILER ALERT There’s also the fact that due to its morality play setup, the ending could come across as if it’s doing a healthy dose of HIV-shaming. That’s certainly doesn’t appear to be the intention, but it’s easy to read it that way, with HIV the ‘punishment’ the movie deals out. Soft Lad does go some way to trying to say that’s not what it’s doing – it’s not a punishment it’s a result – but an element of it remains. END OF SPOILERS
The whole thing could have done with being a little subtler and little calmer, with a more depth drawn and introspection built into the characters before the drama erupts. What the film does do isn’t terrible though. The acting helps pull it through, and the basic idea of the plot is a good one. It’s true that it will keep you watching, but by pushing things a little too far into the melodramatic it never quite reaches his potential.
Overall Verdict: A good idea and some strong acting certainly helps, but this tale of family lies and wrong decisions gets too histrionic at times for its own good.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac