Film Review: Boys On Film 20 Heaven Can Wait

Peccadillo Pictures’ hit LGBTQ short film series Boys on Film has introduced us to a wealth of emerging British and international queer talent over the past two decades. This Monday May 18th sees Peccadillo celebrate its twenieth birthday and the worldwide DVD and VOD (via Vimeo) release of Peccadillo’s twenieth gay short film anthology, Boys On Film 20: Heaven Can Wait.

Ahead of the launch, some of The Queer Review contributors Chad Armstrong, Eric Langberg, Boris Abrams, Ralph Bogard and editor James Kleinmann sampled what the latest Boys on Film collection has to offer.

MANIVALD (Estonia/Croatia/Canada, 13 mins) Dir. Chintes Lundgren

Chintis Lundgren’s touching, funny and beautifully detailed hand drawn Manivald is a film about sexual awakening, animal lust and growing up. It is part of a series of animated shorts featuring the majorly hot wolf, Toomas the plumber, with pecs and abs for days. The humdrum existence of Manivald, a piano playing fox in his early thirties still living at home with his mother, is interrupted by the arrival of Toomas to fix the washing machine (after Manivald’s mother has been sitting on it to get her rocks off!) Who knew that a suggestive wink from an animated, ripped, naked wolf could be so sexually charged and arousing? With great voice performances, oodles of charm and an inebriated bunny rabbit, Manivald engages and entertains throughout. By James Kleinmann

SLEEPOVER (Sweden, 9 mins) Dir. Jimi Vall Peterson

Emil stays over at his friend Adam’s after a night at the cinema and while sharing a bed a lot of unspoken feelings rise up. Jimi Vall Peterson’s short, which he wrote, directed and edited, squeezes a lot of simmering emotion into a short space of time. Everything is a hanging question mark, full of anticipation and nerves, charmingly delivered by actor’s Hjalmar Hardestam and Simon Eriksson. It instantly threw me back to those heady, unsure days of my own youthful awakening. By Chad Armstrong

MANKIND (UK, 13 mins) Dir. Layke Anderson

Layke Anderson’s enigmatic, kaleidoscopic short begins with a Carl Sagan quote: “Mars has become a kind of mythic arena, onto which we have projected our Earthly hopes and fears.” This holds true for the two main characters in Mankind, Will (Ricky Nixon) and Evan (Alexis Gregory), who we follow over the course of an argument and an afternoon. They’ve reached a turning point because, without Evan’s knowledge, Will has applied to be a colonist on a one-way trip to the red planet. “This is a process,” Will says, trying to calm Evan’s fear of losing him. “It’s complicated. We’re still years away yet.” How do you find a way to continue a relationship with the one you love, Evan must decide, knowing that at some point in the future he may leave forever and never return? The brilliance of the short is in how it keeps the details vague, much of the space-centric specifics relegated to words on a laptop screen in flashback. This argument could almost be about any secret that may undermine two lovers. The whole thing functions, then, as a poignant metaphor for any relationship, every relationship, a concept which carries the implicit possibility that someday, possibly, one person may leave and never look back. In the meantime, is it worth it to try? There are no easy answers to be found in Mankind, but there’s a lot to ponder. By Eric Langberg

DON’T BLAME JACK (UK, 29 mins) Dir. Dale John Allen

Don’t Blame Jack
An intimate portrait of a troubled writer on emotionally dulling medication which portrays the fragility of someone living on the edge of their mental health. Until he meets someone who might ignite that spark. An outstanding and vulnerable performance from Jordan Tweddle, sharing the struggles of self-worth and loneliness in an emotionally raw way, supported by Kane Surrey who in a passionate scene brings a tough tenderness. This beautifully shot, lyrical film is a definite highlight of Boys on Film 20.
By Ralph Bogard

ISHA (UK, 15 mins) Dir. Christopher Manning

There are many reasons gay men choose to remain in the closet. Religion is certainly a factor, made all the more intense by fears of family rejection. Isha sees its lead, Rahmi (Horia Săvescu) living the life of a deeply religious Muslim, in love with another man. However, the film travels down a slightly different path, one not characterized by the threat posed by a religious, conservative family. Rahmi has actively decided to keep his family out of his life, much to their distress. Simona Susnea’s cinematography reigns supreme. (Susnea was was nominated for the 2019Emerging Cinematographer Award Nomination by British Society ofCinematographers.) The lighting is cold, sparse and distant, creating a wonderfully somber atmosphere. The symbolism is both subtle, yet pleading for interpretation. In one scene, Rahmi stands naked before a glass window, looking out into the darkness. Behind him, his lover lies tangled in the sheets. Does the window symbolize the divide in his life,  a barrier between his religious life and what his mother refers to as his ‘other life’? Does he long for the glass to shatter, or does the room offer a source of protection? There is certainly enough to make you wonder. By Boris Abrams

THE WORLD IN YOUR WINDOW (New Zealand, 15 mins) Dir. Zoe McIntosh

The World in Your Window
A caravan park kid Jesse (David Lolofakangalo Rounds) and his trans neighbour Repa (Lena Regan) strike up an influential, if almost entirely wordless, friendship as Jesse tries to bring his father out of a pit of depression. Young David Rounds makes a striking debut as a child, forced to look after his incapacitated father as well as himself. Auckland-based director Zoe McIntosh keeps things tight, letting the visuals tell the story, with subtle performances all-around and stunning cinematography by Marty Williams. By Chad Armstrong

CHROMOPHOBIA (Tunisia, 6 mins) Dir. Bassem Ben Brahim

Set to a piece of Beethoven, this bright quirky cut out animation depicting a man coming of age and discovering themselves is a delight. A sudden shift serves as a reminder that not everyone has that freedom. A wonderful celebration of the power of expression, which will, however difficult things might be, ultimately lead us over the rainbow in our truest form. By Ralph Bogard

RUOK (US, 13 mins) Dir. Jay Russel

With bars, clubs, and other meeting spaces closed around the country thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, much of gay social life has shrunk, more than ever before to nothing but our phones. It makes director Jay Russell’s short RUOK feel prescient; I know I spent many a night before the quarantine sprawled on my couch, trying to concentrate on work but continuing to be distracted by texting friends and… well, potential friends, but I also used to actually get up and go out in public to talk to people in person, too. RUOK is made up almost entirely of shots of two friends sitting on their couches in separate apartments, texting each other and navigating dating, sex, friendship and hookup culture. The texts they’re sending each other pop up on screen to let the audience read along, and aside from a short scene at the very end, almost no dialogue is spoken aloud. It’s a fun conceit, and the back-and-forth between the friends who clearly care for each other is legitimately funny. It’s a very enjoyable short with a definite arc; a defined beginning, middle and end, often missing from films of this length. By Eric Langberg

FOREIGN LOVERS (US, 19 mins) Dir. Timothy Ryan Hickernell

Foreign Lovers
On the surface, Foreign Lovers poses the question: Can you fall in love with someone in just 24 hours. But the film digs deeper. We live in an age of instant physical connectivity. After all, our lead, “American” (Timothy Ryan Hickernell) has slept with his whole neighborhood. While there is some commentary on dating app culture, the focus slides towards the emotions driving this behavior. Fatigued, American deletes Grindr, only to download it again when he sees a guy in sweatpants walking down the street. This is an embarrassingly familiar routine. But what propels us to behave in this way? It is not so much the inability to be alone. Rather, it is a wholehearted quest for love. As Foreign Lovers demonstrates, our potential for love is often crippled by the fear of losing it. In an age of digital dating, we have been programed to expect an inevitable climax. Can you fall in love with someone in 24 hours? Maybe. The potential is certainly alluring. To fall in love with such speed is to attain rapid protection. It forgoes dating (and ghosting), jumping straight into the perceived security of a relationship. Foreign Lovers might just explain why so many of us remain single.
By Boris Abrams

MINE (UK, 6 mins) Dir. Matthew Jacobs Morgan

Written and directed by Matthew Jacobs Morgan, this British short examines a gay relationship struggling to survive following the addition of a baby through surrogacy and the ensuing arguments surrounding the paternity of the child. It’s a somber look at the pressure some gay men feel to have children and the consequences of a clash in parental styles within a couple. By James Kleinmann

JUST ME (UK, 11 mins) Dir. Mickey Jones

Just Me
As his wedding to Kelly (Chauntelle Bowler) approaches, Scott (Philip Olivier) is confronted by the past he’s tried to bury when a police officer, Connor (Carl Loughlin), arrives on his doorstep. Directed by British soap opera veteran Mickey Jones (Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Eastenders, Hollyoaks), the emotions run high in this dark tale of internalised homophobia and the inner struggle for self-acceptance. Both leads are engaging and Loughlin carries off the leather harness look well during the film’s night club sequence. By James Kleinmann

For more details on Peccadillo’s Boys on Film 20: Heaven Can Wait released Monday May 18th, and to pre-order the DVD and VOD, head to the official website.

BOYS ON FILM 20: HEAVEN CAN WAIT – Official Trailer
Boys On Film 20: Heaven Can Wait

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