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Film

Review: Boy Meets Boy

While on his last night on holiday in Berlin, Harry (Matthew James Morrison), a Black British junior doctor, meets the eyeline of Johannes (Alexis Koutsoulis), a white German dancer. Emerging sweaty from the club in the morning, they stroll the city together, passing the time before Harry has to scuttle to the airport and return home. Sauntering down Berlin’s pavements, the pair engage in lengthy conversations, complete with topic sentences and pointed complications of their respective views. Harry, for instance, doesn’t think much of monogamy, initiating a discursus on Grindr, Tinder, and gay hook-up culture. But he’s a football fan, which is apparently significant. (I must confess I mentally checked out when Harry complained about Judy Garland. It’s now as much a cliché to say queers should hate Garland as it is to say that they all adore Garland: when the truth is everyone should love Judy Garland.) Johannes, on the other hand, believes in true love and is more conservative in many respects: but he’s in an open relationship, unhappily. These details are designed to balance the nature of their interactions and court complexity, but they feel like contrivances. Where Andrew Haigh’s Weekend holds its two lovers in the same esteem despite their principled disagreements, based on the simplicity of the opposing points they make, Daniel Sánchez López’s film (co-written with Hannah Renton) makes vague the terms of its discourse by overemphatic characterisation. The result is a 75-minute film that seems much longer. But it’s not only time that passes oddly, the space goes by in an indifferent register too. Berlin is anonymous in the film, a series of glanced at buildings and streets, with none of the sense of spatial inhabitation and visual discovery I get from a similarly touristy film like Lucio Castro’s End of the Century, with its early wordless traipse around Barcelona. I was hopeful about the film’s opening stretch, with its well-arranged club scene and a lovely bit of business of the pair riding Johannes’s bike, where the camera only frames their legs as Harry flirtatiously caresses the underside of Johannes’s thigh—but the film denies the potential intimacies, physical and verbal, between the two, opting instead for extensive dialogues which are not dialogues, because the director treats the characters like walking avatars for talking points of contemporary gay life: nothing is transferred between them, no sentiment is interrogated, and their sense of and affection for each other are static.

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