Boy Meets Boy is released on DVD and digital on the 6th of September through Peccadillo Pictures.
Ever since Richard Linklater’s brilliant Before Sunrise (1995) and Andrew Haigh’s groundbreaking Weekend (2011), there has been no shortage of minimalist one night or one-day relationship movies to choose from. These movies play with the power of conversation, random meetings and the relationships we build through social connectivity. Their handheld camerawork, creating an intimate and theatrical performance space where life, love, politics, pleasure and insecurities weave into a rich tapestry of the human experience.
In essence, these movies reflect the classic chamber plays of theatre. But unlike these single set chamber productions, they inhabit the hustle and bustle of our cities and towns. Here, streets, parks, shops and monuments become part of the narrative as newly-found friends or lovers find excitement and opportunity in each other’s company. And while many of these films choose to explore people living in the same city, town or country, others embrace the random beauty of solo travel. It is here where Daniel Sanchez Lopez’ debut feature, Boy Meets Boy finds its voice. His short, intimate drama, reflecting the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Before Sunrise and the LGBTQ+ themes of Weekend.
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Johannes (Alexis Kotsoulis) is a keen dancer, his Berlin studio an emotional bolt hole as he dances in front of the giant floor to ceiling mirrors. However, his home life is far more complicated, as he sits stuck in a relationship that no longer offers much care, love or support. But, Johannes passionately believes in love, and companionship, even if it may not always be perfect. And what better way to cure internal debate and stress than by dancing the night away in a local club, and that’s precisely where Johannes is heading as he leaves the studio behind.
Meanwhile, across town, a British tourist Harry (Matthew James Morrison), is enjoying his final night in Berlin with a casual hookup from Grindr. His journey to Berlin, one of escape, sex, and release as he enjoys a break from his role as a junior doctor in London. But as his casual hookup leaves the hotel, Harry is already thinking about the next sexual fix, his destination a club in the city centre.
Arriving at the same club on the same night, Harry and Johannes lock eyes across the crowded dance floor. A spark of sexual interest drawing them closer and closer together as the heat builds. And when dawn breaks and they enter the bright sunlight outside, a whole day faces them before Harry’s evening flight home. What follows is a freewheeling day of personal and social exploration as Harry and Johannes explore Berlin together. Their gentle meanderings, full of flirtatious energy before deeper conversations take hold. Here both men challenge each other’s thoughts and views while building new and exciting bridges of understanding – their conversations, unlocking the door to uncomfortable truths, new possibilities and deeply rooted secrets.
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By working with cinematographer Hanna Biornstad, Lopez creates a deep level of intimacy in the journey that ensues. Harry and Johannes’ thoughts, desires, securities and insecurities, brought to life through close up shots, looks and gestures that feel utterly real in construct. Here, Lopez and Boirnstad capture the fragile intensity of new meetings and the feelings of uncertainty that surround our first tentative steps alongside a potential new love interest. The boys desire to explore each other, surrounded by unknown boundaries that only become clear as the bright daylight succumbs to the evening twilight.
But the true strength of Boy Meets Boy lies within the performances and wide-ranging discussions at the film’s heart. Here Harry and Johannes discuss issues ranging from stereotypes to religion, dating apps, and open relationships that can hold one-sided benefits. But the strength of these discussions is the interface of each theme with broader views on political belief, social justice, race and masculinity. This creates a dramatic footprint that talks directly to a shared 21st Century experience, whether male, female, gay, bi or straight. Here many of the choices and social barriers that face us all are wrapped neatly into the journey of two men from differing social and cultural backgrounds.
As a result, Boy Meets Boy transcends a singular label of gay male drama, becoming a far more profound and all-encompassing slice of modern theatre. And it’s here where Morrison and Kotsoulis truly shine. Both of their performances, rooted in a natural honesty that feels unscripted. Their on-screen chemistry, pulling the viewer into Harry and Johannes’ intimate yet fleeting world with ease. The sheer magnetism of both actors leaving us desperately wanting more as the final credits roll.
However, there are also several problems in the narrative journey. The majority of these minor flaws sit within the opening fifteen to twenty minutes of Lopez’s film. Here, we are never given enough opportunity to understand the lives of our two central characters before they come together. While it’s clear, this is a stylistic choice; the audience thrown into the relationship alongside Harry and Johannes, a further ten to fifteen minutes of character build-up could have helped the overarching narrative. There is equally a minor problem surrounding the time given to some of the debates and discussions both men engage in; for example, their religious dispute feels rushed and incomplete as we quickly move to a new issue.
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But, these minor problems do not distract from the strengths of Boy Meets Boy, with Lopez knowingly playing homage to the films it draws inspiration from. For example, Harry was born in Nottingham, a delightful nod to Weekend, while Harry and Johannes debate the beauty of a sunrise in a nod to Linklater’s films. Here Lopez demonstrates that Boy Meets Boy understands the film’s it will be measured against and the cinematic style it embodies. And while Boy Meets Boy rarely treads new cinematic ground, it does represent a new perspective on a tried and tested format. Its bright, natural cinematography and thoroughly engaging performances holding a deep warmth and sincerity that helps Boy Meet Boy stand out from the crowd.