It’s Good to Sin (Television Thoughts: It’s A Sin, BBC4)

I was right – I had a nagging feeling that the show, as I watched it, would break my heart. I can’t remember watching. show that made me cry so much. Maybe because I have some personal stake in this show, as I lived through what most of these characters did, and saw what they experienced. In a way, it was like seeing departed friends go through their experiences again, and with the same unhappy ending,

I know the show is getting accolades, and I think it’s well deserved. My most favorite actor in the series is Lydia West, who plays Jill. She is the heart of this piece, as she is the witness to how the disease has ravaged her friends one by one. I remember West from years and Years, where she had a smaller role, but she is front and center here, and well worth your time. I have to say that I found Olly Alexander more than competent as well, and frankly, I had doubts since I never saw him act before.

The best thing about the show is how it captured the spirit of the times – the way the times started as fun, how the early 80s carried over the sexual liberation of the 70s, until everything went to a halt because of the virus. I remember how the mood changed from carefree, to denial, to fear, to acceptance and the dread of what is happening to the gay community. Younger gays who are so lackadaisical about AIDS can learn or two from this show. Humanity can learn a thing or three about how to be kind to one another from this show.

A Place Called Home (Movie Thoughts: Drawn Back Home)

Another sign of getting old: movies about reconnecting get to you. I felt that way about Thomas Awrey’s ‘Drawn Back Home,’an other wise run-of-the-mill story about two friends reconnecting. But there’s something about the honesty of the performances here that is quite appealing, and before I knew it, the film got to me. It’s a fairly basic story, but all it needs is for it to be told authentically and it will work. This film’s big heart will touch you.

Love Lost (Film Thoughts: Are We Lost Forever)

Sometimes you just connect with a film. I felt that way with David Fardmar’s ‘Are We Lost Forever.’ The film is definitely flawed, but for me it does one thing very well: it captures the emotion you feel after a breakup. In the film, a couple decide to part ways, and it shows how each of them deals with the separation. At first there is animosity, even denial, until sadness and depression sets in. Bjorn Elgerd plays Adrian, and he is great here, giving the character depth as he goes from one emotion to another – he is singing and dancing along to a pop song one moment, and crying into his hairbrush the next. At times the film felt so realistic that it was triggering my PTSD. The film even shows some of the inevitabilities of life – when someone else has moved on, and you are not in that place just yet.

Sure, the film sometimes gets a little tedious, and the characters can be exasperating – making bad decision after bad decision. But then you probably know someone who have gone through the same thing – heck we all have been there. I know this film would not appeal to everyone, but I was emotionally attached to it, and it made the film a satisfying – even thoughtful – watch for me.

Martial Love (Film Thoughts: Your Name Engraved Herein)

It’s 1987, and Martial Law has jiust been lifted in Taiwan. The setting is an all-boys Catholic school, and this is where we first see Birdy (Jing-Hua Tseng) and Jia Han (Edward Chen) as high schoolers. One os an outcast, the other is popular. And against all odds, they fall in love, but this love is never spoken, and not really acted upon. Such is the premise of ‘Your Name Engraved Herein,’ the most successful LGBT film in Taiwan’s history. I guess nowadays they call the genre BL (boy love) and it’s so accepted now that the film broke box office records even in the midst of the pandemic.

I thought I had already gone wary of gay films where one character is long-suffering, and the story consists of one-sided unrequited love affairs (really, it has become so tiring for me) but director Kuang-Hui Lui focuses on the love story that you cannot help but be swept by it. It is set at a different time of course, where this love is still a love that dare not speak its name. I cannot help but be touched by it, and I am probably around the same age at the time as these characters were. The film felt true, even if at times the melodrama is so pronounced it feels screechy. So cue in the melancholy music and I am there. And I bet you will be too. So go fire this up on Netflix and have a good cry.

Fall Into You (Film Thoughts: Falling)

Vigo Mortensen makes his directorial debut in ‘Falling,’ and it is notable that this film was featured in several film festivals: Sundance, Cannes, Toronto and San Sebastian. The film is a story about a son (Mortensen) and a father, played by Lance Henriksen. Specifically it’s about a homophobic father and his gay son who has to take care of him. Needless to say, that set up piqued my interest, and was so looking forward to seeing this.

I knew this was going to be heavy, but perhaps it was way too heavy for me right now. It did feel like you were spending time with a belligerent elderly who is spewing bile remarks non-stop. It took my patience to even sit through some of the scenes, and I couldn’t help but keep wishing for the film to end. Perhaps the acting was too good and so believable? Mortensen plays his role subtly, a contrast to Henriksen’s over the top, and hysterical performance.

The film also lacks a bit of narrative. It gives us flashbacks to when the son was a kid, but the present story doesn’t bring you anywhere, and while I like a lot of the directorial choices, I am left to wonder what the film is trying to say.

Bookings (Movie Thoughts: Sublet)

I have to say, I was quite taken by Israeli filmmaker Eytan Fox’s new film ‘Sublet.’ I found myself tearing up from it, really touched by it.

Part of it may be my sense of wanderlust. I used to do one big trip a year and obviously couldn’t do this year. The film is a great ‘trip,’ in a sense. John Benjamin Hickey plays a NYT travel journalist (‘The Intrepid Traveler’) who goes on a trip to Tel Aviv. And in the film, we get a real sense of Tel Aviv, and in that sense the film is such a traveler’s experience. You do feel like a tourist who finds a little more about yourself after a trip – and this is what most good travels do to you. I have been to Tel Aviv, and learned more about it from this film than my (admittedly brief) stay.

Hickey also plays someone more or less my age, and I can identify with a lot of the things he is going through, emotionally. He comes in coming from a little bit of heartbreak, and is a little lost. He finds an unlikely friendship with Tomer, who is renting the apartment he booked. They connect, and teh film sort of becomes a two-ships-in-the-night kind of thing. I was a little less impressed with this part of the film – I never got a real clear sense in what they connected at, for example. But Hickey and Niv Nissim (who plays Tomer) are quite good actors, and they have great chemistry together that you can’t help but get swept by them. And of course, the characters in the end learn a little bit more about themselves from each other. As I said, it was great to see a middle-aged gay man as the emotional core of the film. This film made me feel ‘seen,’ as the kids would say nowadays. And it made me long for those days when I can travel again, and maybe peel a layer of emotions within me.

The Summer They Fell In Love (Film Thoughts: Été 85/Summer of 85)

A lot of people have compared Francois Ozon’s ‘Summer of 85’ to ‘Call Me by Your Name’ so of course I would be in for that. This film is a young love story set in Northern France, with the sea as the background, so you would think it’s a sun-filled Summer romance kind of film, I mean, even the title suggests it. But we see from the start there is something darker there, as we find out something already has happened to one of the lovers, David, played by Benjamin Voisin and his lover, Alex, is being blamed for it.

As a love story, the film is very sweet but devastating. It I sweet and tender in it core, and you are swept away by David and Alex as they meet, and fall in love with each other. The actors have great chemistry, and look great together, and you fall in love with them too. But on film, the characters aren’t rally fleshed out well enough to give them depth, and the sudden shifts in tone (noir, thriller, comedy, drama) from one scene to the next felt jarring.

Still, I recommend it – all in all you will feel the passion of the actors as they fall in love, and everything and everyone looks beautiful here. 

Love Carries (Film Thoughts: I Carry You With Me)

Sometimes all you need is a good love story. In the heart of Heidi Ewing’s ‘I Carry You With Me,’ there is a poignant love story that starts in the 90s and transcends to today. Ivan (Armando Espitia) lives in Pueblo City, Mexico and has dreams of becoming a chef. HJe went to culinary school there but isn’t getting his break – he is cleaning toilets at a restaurant. One day he meets Gerardo (Christian Vazquez) and the two fall in love. Everything is fine, but Ivan is fixated on his dream, and thinks the only way he can achieve it is to cross the border.

Ivan ends up in New York City, and after some trials, Gerardo is able to follow him. They start to build a life, even opening up a restaurant. But of course, they are both undocumented, and Ewing shifts the film from a narrative to a documentary, interviewing both gentlemen as they struggle to be able to leave and visit Mexico without disrupting their lives. As I said, this is a pretty rich love story, full of twists and turns, and with a satisfying outcome. A lot of reviews I have read have been jarred by the sudden change of tone in the final part of the movie, but I did not mind it. It was good to see the ‘characters’ as real people towards the end, and for me it even makes their story more meaningful.

Acrobatic Hearts (Film Thoughts: L’acrobate)

Rodrigue Jean’s ‘The Acrobat’ is definitely a movie you will either love or hate, and to be honest, my feelings vacillate between the two. It’s a story of two men who unexpectedly meet, and their relationship becomes intense quickly. But their relationship is cold, perfectly matched to the old Montreal weather where it is set. These two people hurt each other to show their affection, or is it the other way around? The director doesn’t make it clear.

Parts of the film are hard to watch – there is explicit sex, but it never feels like pornography. There are scenes that made me wince, while others touched me. I don’t know really if I could relate to the relationship between the characters, but I can certainly relate to their personal stories – one has to take care of his sick mother. To be honest, there are parts I really don’t know if I understood. There are feelings shown here between the two mean that I really do not understand. But such id life, right?

When There’s No Forever (Film Thoughts: Los Fuertes/The Strong Ones)

Two souls passing in the night – this genre of love story always gets me. In Oscar Zuniga’s ‘Los Fuertes,’ this story is set in picturesque Southern Chil, Valdivia to be exact, and the gorgeous setting enhances the story of two people meeting, falling for each other knowing that this probably will not be forever. This film is a testament to enjoying the connections we have right now.

 

And that’s it, that is basically the plot of the film. While at first the simplicity made me want a little bit more, I enjoyed the simple subtleties in the characters’ connections. It helps that the two leads, played by Samuel Gonzales and Antonio Altamirano have chemistry for days. You see them and you really believe these two souls are in love with each other. I love the small intimate details – the pregnant glances, the way one massages the other’s scalp while the other is sleeping – these may be minute, but they contribute to the overall feel of the film. And it makes the ending more poignant, and touching.