Affairs can be messy, especially in the small, incestuous world of a South London gay rugby team. Writer-director-producer-cinematographer-editor-composer Matt Carter’s polished flick, In From The Side, is a bit too, too much at times, but it has an over-processed charm about it nonetheless. Oh, and plenty of hot rugby boys…which will no doubt be enough of a draw for some.
Handsome rugby player Mark (Alexander Lincoln) plays on the B-team of the all-gay Stags. He’s got a comfortable life with his rich, handsome boyfriend, Richard (Alex Hammond), living in a grand apartment with the kind of views most Londoners would kill for. One night after a game, he ends up having a one-night stand with Warren (Alexander King), a handsome player for the A-team. While Mark is in an open relationship, Warren isn’t, and each stolen liaison digs them both deeper and deeper into trouble.
Have I used the word ‘handsome’ yet? Let the drinking game begin! The whole film is handsome. Handsome people, beautifully shot in some stunning locations with a lovely score. The fact that this was crowdfunded shows what can be done with some community support and talented filmmakers. In fact, this over abundance of prettiness starts to work against the film; things are too slick, everyone seems too safe and secure. It’s hard to actually care too much about the emotional lives of these gorgeous white men with nothing to lose.
Mark is from a wealthy family, has rich partner and an office job that doesn’t seem taxing in the least. His affair is motivated by boredom. Meanwhile, Warren is hot but arrogant and self-absorbed. He’s a fuckboy, not a long-term prospect. It’s hard to root for either of them. They’re enjoyable enough as an on-screen pair, but not enough to be too bothered by the outcome.
For a film about an illicit affair, there’s a remarkable lack of forbidden thrills to the whole relationship. We don’t get to know either Mark or Warren’s partners well enough to feel any sting to the betrayal. While Warren enjoys the games they’re forced to play to hide the relationship, Mark (our emotional POV) is torn up over them.
Things are much better when set within with the world of the rugby team. It’s a group of gay friends and frenemies that feels warm and relatable, down the petty jealousies and unspoken attractions. This team is rather adorable, from their banter to their schoolboyish uniforms. Pearse Egan’s Pinky and Will Hearle’s Henry are definite standouts. As Mark and Warren’s secret starts to be unveiled, it’s the betrayal of friendships that hits harder than any of the romantic drama. The film’s last minute turn into full-on “sports movie”—with some handy exposition for the sports-illiterate among us—shows where the movie’s heart lies; with Mark’s real love affair, the team.
In From The Side feels like a throwback to a certain kind of mainstream gay cinema; an overwrought story of privileged cis white gay men; diversity isn’t the film’s strong suit. It may not be groundbreaking, it’s half-an-hour too long, and not as sexy as I wanted it to be, but with some strong performances and excellent cinematography by Carter, it’s still an enjoyable watch.
By Chad Armstrong