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.
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.
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.
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.
I saw the Brazilian film ‘Alice Junior’ as part of Newfest, which is The New York Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, as part of the festival’s streaming choices. Directed by Gil Baroni, it’s a fun and hip movie about a young trans woman in a fish-out-of-water kind of film.
It stars Anna Clestino Mota, a real-life vlogger, as the titular character, who plays more or less a character same as her real life persona. Alice was a finalist in Brasil’s Next teen Top Model, and has a slew of followers online.
But when Alice’s father makes a decision to move them to a rural small town, her world is turned upside down. Imagine a city girl being moved to a farm in middle America, and you can kind of get the film’s set-up. You also probably won’t come to this film expecting deep narrative, but the wild ride it takes you is enjoyable enough. Mota is appealing and can hold your interest, even if the situations feel overly familiar. This is fun and sweet and mindless, and you need that sometimes.
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.
Todd Verow’s ‘Squirrels’ probably would have beena more fun movie if I were younger. It’s about a bunch of kids in the East Village sharing an apartment and then putting it on AirBnb for days to help with their rent. They also scam the renters. I have a real moral dilemma about what they are doing and couldn’t muster sympathy for any of these characters. Basically, I am too old to appreciate this film.
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.
Matthew Fifer’s ‘Cicada’ is one of the featured films from thsi years (kinda virtual) Outfest 2020. He directs, stars and writes in this film about a gay millennial in New York City. It is one of those films that is difficult to categorize – there are both comedic and dramatic elements in it, and is quite heavy in theme. It is also a little abstract and at times too obtuse to figure out.
But the film got me thinking. It initially made me a little detached from it, but as I thought about it more, felt it creep up on me. His character, ben, is tortured – he has been sexually abused and has to deal. He spends most of his days and nights in random sexual encounters with men and women.
But things change when he meets Sam, and they try to embark on a relationship. he comes with his own set of issues – he hasn’t come out to his family yet. All of this is filmed gorgeously and you feel their worlds crumble even as they try to patch it up. There’s a sense of dread here, and you try to insert your own kind of hope in it.
A bunch of show tune loving teenagers putting on a show? Seems right up my alley, no? But Lord help me, I despised Ryan Patrick Bartley’s ‘Divos!’ And I swear, I tried. The film centers mostly on Ricky Redmond (Matt Steele) who is a teenager obsessed with musical theater – he is a performer and has been playing the lead in his high school production for years. When Josh (Timothy Brunridge) enters the picture , he suddenly gets a rival for the lead in ‘How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying,’ the season’s musical. And yes we all know where this goes. First of all, Steele as a high school student is more than a stretch, as he looks like he is in his 40s. And his character is so unlikable it is almost homophobic. And for a film about a musical, it has almost no music – were the rights too expensive? The whole production seemed amateurish, at best. I have to say above everything else, I was quite disappointed with this.