A few years ago director Rob Williams made Christmas a bit more queer with the rom-com Make The Yuletide Gay. Since then he’s brought us the gay-themed Role/Play, Out to Kill, and The Men Next Door, but now he’s returning to the festive season with the ensemble tale, Shared Rooms.
The movie follows three different stories, set over the Christmas and New Year period. Laslo and Cal are a couple getting increasingly fed up with the fact that all their friends are either adopting or having babies through surrogates. They have no intention of becoming parents until Cal’s 17-year-old nephew suddenly turns up on their doorstep. He’s been thrown out of home for being gay and needs somewhere to stay – although Laslo and Cal aren’t exactly set up to parent a teenager.
Elsewhere Dylan is supposed to be away for the holidays, but ends up going home, only to discover that his roommate, Julian, has been renting out his room via a gay AirBnB type website. Despite his anger, Dylan agrees that the visitor can stay – in return for a cut of the rent – but that means he’ll have to share a bed with Julian, who he’s long been in love with but is certain Jules doesn’t feel the same way.
Finally, there’s Sid, who hooks up with a guy called Gray via a Grindr-style app. While it’s initially all about sex, something deeper starts to emerge between them as they discuss their lives, philosophies and pasts. Eventually all three tales intersect at a New Year’s party.
Shared Rooms is one of those movies that just wants to be fairly light, entertaining, and a good film to snuggle up on the sofa with. Although it engages with a few issues such as gay parenting, it largely just wants to keep the viewer amused with some fun, light-hearted stories and a bit of sexiness. On that last point, the film includes the fact that for the story between Gray and Sid, they strip off within seconds of meeting one another and then spend the entire movie naked (except for a few minutes at the end). While that inevitably means there are a few Austin Powers-style moments where they carefully ensure the goodies are hidden from the camera, there are a few full frontal shots and Justin Xavier Smith and Alexander Neil Miller certainly look good with their clothes off.
Probably the most successful of the stories is the one between roommates Dylan and Julian (indeed, entire gay-themed movies have been based on a slighter premise), partly due to Robert Werner as Dylan, who’s very good as the man pining over a often-naked roomie, but who Dylan thinks is out of his league. The Cal and Laslo tale isn’t bad either, although it doesn’t really go all that far and there’s a sense that it gives slightly short shrift to the complexity and possibilities for entertainment of a gay couple suddenly having to look after a teenager. Some may also be a tiny bit uncomfortable about the fact the humour that arises out of the situation gets a little sexual and at times unintentionally incestuous. That said, it never goes too far with this, it’s just that there are a couple of scenes where it gets slightly icky about what an uncle and his young nephew are saying.
If I was going to nitpick, I’d also say that the way it wraps things up is a little quick and convenient, especially with a coincidence in how two of the characters are connected that’s introduced quite clumsily and will have a lot of people rolling their eyes. Indeed, there’s almost the feeling it was a last minute addition just so the ending feels a little more climactic and conclusory. There are also a few sections where things lag a little, and Gray and Sid’s story would actually be fairly dull if they put their clothes on at any point (thankfully the nudity gives us other things to occupy our attention). Thankfully though around that there’s plenty to keep an undemanding viewer entertained.
It doesn’t add up to an awful lot, but it’s not a bad watch. If you just want something that will pass an hour or so in amiable fashion, it does the trick. Don’t expect much more than that and you’ll have a decent time.
Overall Verdict: With three amusing tales, Shared Rooms offers a bit of festive fun. It doesn’t offer an awful lot more than that, but it just about does the trick.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac