Having taken us all around the world, Boys On Film returns to Britain for its 15th outing, Time & Tied. However, while sticking with one country, it doesn’t skimp on the quality, showing there’s a hell of a lot of good gay-themed short films being made in the UK.
Boys On Film 15 presents nine shorts which range from the award-winning Closets and the sexy, provocative G’Oclock, to time capsule of Polari that is Putting On The Dish, and a film many thought we’d never see, Trouser Bar.
But are they worth watching? Take a look below for our thoughts. And you can see what we think of other Boys On Film releases here.
TROUSER BAR (2016, 18 mins)
Dir. Kristen Bjorn
I’m almost surprised we ever got to see this one, as when it went into production, it was said it had a script by Sir John Gielgud, but his estate was refusing to give them permission to make it. It was allegedly written by Gielgud for ‘grandfather of gay porn’ Peter de Rome to helm, although de Rome never actually managed to make it before he died. As the Gielgud estate was refusing permission, it seemed like it might never be able to be screened. However, as we discovered a few months ago, they’ve removed Gielgud’s name and are no longer suggesting a connection (indeed, there’s a disclaimer at the beginning), and hence this slice of rather English erotica can be seen here.
Set in the 1970s, two men meet outside a men’s clothes shop. They head inside where the fabric and feel of the clothing turns out to be a massive turn-on, which leads them into the dressing room to get fully fitted, and perhaps sort out their horniness. It even features the likes of Julian Clary, Barry Cryer, and Nigel Havers as guys passing by who don’t expect what they see going on in the shop.
Directed by legend of gay porn, Kristen Bjorn, if you’ve seen any of Peter de Rome’s own work, you might be expecting this to be full of hardcore sex too. It’s not though, instead offering some softcore thrills of throbbing bulges, grinding and sex where the most explicit bits are hidden from view. However, it does retain the feel of de Rome’s work, and instead of being purely interested in the fornication, it’s more about sensation and feel, with the look and texture of the fabrics developing into the sensation and feel of sex. If Gielgud did write it, it suggests he found something incredibly erotic about clothing, from the measuring of the inseam to fabric pressed against flesh. He may also have liked a bit of voyeurism. Trouser Bar is a bit of a curio, but it’s a fun and pretty sexy one.
3 out of 5
SAUNA THE DEAD (2016, 20 mins)
Dir. Tom Frederic
Is this the gay equivalent of Snakes On A Plane or Sharknado, where it was the title that was the inspiration for the film? I don’t know, but you can certainly imagine the words ‘Sauna The Dead’ popping into someone’s mind and an idea being born.
It’s into the world of gay saunas, where a man is wandering around in a towel and possibly getting down and dirty – except that he’s impossibly picky. However, the down and dirty he’s looking for takes an extremely unexpected turn, when the other sauna patron become a hoard of undead zombies. Soon there are only two normal humans left – one of whom the other dismissed for sex earlier – who must team up to survive.
Whether the title came first or not, it’s quite a fun film, with plenty of horror humour and a setting that ensures there’s plenty of shirtless men around. It also has a little fun with teaching a lesson to sauna patrons who seem arbitrarily picky, arrogant and stand off-ish. It’s also a welcome break from some of Time & Tied’s more serious shorts.
3 out of 5
G O’CLOCK (2016, 11 mins)
Dir. Mitchell Marion
Paramedic Alex is called out to save the life of a young man who’s overdosed on GHB. A couple of weeks later he heads off to a gay orgy, where he hopes to relax and have fun. There he meets the group of boys he’d helped before and starts to chat to Nik, a sexy young Spanish boy. They take GHB and other drugs together, but Alex soon discovers that just because he’s a paramedic doesn’t mean him and those around him are immune from the dangers of narcotics.
Very sexy and full of hot guys in a state of undress, this provocative film takes a look at the fact that when it comes to drugs, a lot of people like to think they’ve got it under control and that it’s other people who take it too far, but that can be an illusion. What starts as sexy takes a disturbing turn as it reveals the danger and vulnerability drugs can lead to. It’s a cautionary tale that works extremely well.
4 out of 5
PUTTING ON THE DISH (2015, 6 mins)
Dir. Brian Fairbairn and Karl Eccleston
Short and very sweet, Putting On The Dish takes us back to the 1960s and two men speaking Polari, the coded gay language that’s been pretty much forgotten, except for occasional remembrances of the immensely popular Julian and Sandy radio sketches of the 60s. Two strangers strike up a conversation on a park bench, which quickly moves from typical English, into the mix of camp words, rhyming slang, Romani and Yiddish that made up Polari. To be honest, as they chat about life and sex, it gets increasingly difficult to know exactly what they’re talking about, but it’s fun to watch as you try to figure it out.
It’s a window into a lost gay world, from when being open was almost impossible and the secret language gave people a sense of power and the ability to talk about things they knew could get them arrested if others were aware of what they were talking about. A fascinating watch.
4 out of 5
MORNING IS BROKEN (2015, 10 mins)
Dir. Simon Anderson
Morning Is Broken has had a fair amount of success, screening at festivals and being chosen as part of the BFI Flare LGBT Film Festival global digital fest, ‘fiveFilms4freedom‘. It’s the end of Sam’s brother’s wedding, and the young man ends up in the garden with a guy called Nick. They decide to go off for a drive, which ends up with a romantic moment taking a panicked turn – but perhaps they can pull things back.
The film gives a gay spin to the idea of romance in idyllic middle-class England, and it succeeds at that admirably. It confronts the desires and fears of a young man in a short but sweet coming-of age tale with a bittersweet ending.
3.5 out of 5
CROSSROAD (2016, 11 mins)
Dir. Leon Lopez
At the crack of dawn a young man is lying awake in bed next to a woman. He decides to get up and head out for a walk, looking for something but even he doesn’t seem sure what. With his relationship under pressure, he appears to be at a tipping point, which leads him towards a confrontation with another man that he may never be able to come back from.
With no dialogue, Crossroad is a film told through gesture, suggestion and mood. It means that it’s a film that’s initially a bit of a mystery as you try to figure out what’s going on and how the man has got to the point he has, only revealing the true depths of the problems towards the end. Starring Hollyoaks’ Ashley Campbell, it’s a film where what at first seems as if it might be a bit too pleased with itself, reveals a surprising power at its conclusion.
3.5 out of 5
DAWN (2015, 13 mins)
Dir. Jake Graf
It’s still dark as two people – a man and a woman – meet at a bus stop. As they begin to chat, they reveal more about themselves, with both seeming like lost souls in need of connection. While the man is partially blind, as the sun starts to rise they may begin to see each other more clearly than either expected.
Genuinely sweet and tender, Dawn has an interest in small moments and gestures, and those instances where something tiny might be a hint towards what’s happening inside two people. With a trans theme, there’s a beautiful sense of exploration and possibility, with a romantic core and moments of humour that will put a smile on your face, while not forgetting there may be an edge of threat to at least one of their lives.
4 out of 5
CLOSETS (2015, 18 mins)
Dir. Lloyd Eyre-Morgan
Starring Tommy Knight (Waterloo Road, The Sarah Jane Smith Adventures), Ceallach Spellman (Cucumber) and Julie Hesmondhalgh (Coronation Street), and winner of both the Youth Award and Best Of British Award at Iris 2015, Closets follows a young man in the 1980s struggling with his sexuality and a mother who won’t accept difference. He somehow manages to time-travel to 2016, where he meets another young man with problems of his own.
NIGHTSTAND (2015, 26 mins)
Dir. Charlie Parham
Produced by Sir Ian McKellen and Stephen Fry (working together for the first time), Nightstand follows three meetings between two men. One of them is young, gay and rather arrogant, while the other is middle-aged, married to a woman and fairly inhibited. However, they find a connection that develops into an affair. Initially it’s just a one-night stand that ends pretty awkwardly, but eventually both are facing their fears as their relationship develops.
Compared to most of the other shorts, Nightstand is a bit of a slow-burner, giving itself the time to develop the characters. It’s works though, particularly with the younger character, whose bravado initially comes across as arrogance, but reveals itself to be something else. The older man meanwhile at first appears to be learning to accept himself, but may have a long way to go. The ending isn’t too brilliant, as while it has power, it also feels like it’s avoiding the full depth of what’s going on. It’s a good advert for Soho though, and very well made for the most part.
3 out of 5
Overall Verdict: Another great selection of gay-themed shorts. Indeed, this is one of the strongest Boys On Film release from the past couple of years, with a fascinating selection – ranging from the sexy to the thought-provoking – that’s well worth your time.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac