It’s the last weekend of the 31st BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival. Here are some highlights from the festival so far reviewed by Jack Cline.
Against the Law
This year’s opening film is an ingenious mix of period drama and documentary. It tells the story of Peter Wildeblood (beautifully played by Daniel Mays), a shy mid-1950s London journalist who was openly gay even though it was illegal. After falling in love with a hot airman (Richard Gadd), he is arrested and sent to prison for gross indecency. On his release, he wrote the book this film is based on, which led to prison reform and ultimately the legalisation of gay sex.
The film is inventively shot, with a real sense of energy that brings the period to life. Funny and lusty, these men are living out of the limelight. And the drama is intercut with present day reminiscences from real men who lived through those days. This is initially a bit jarring, but the two elements of the movie weave together cleverly, building a powerful sense of momentum. By the end there isn’t a dry eye in the house, as both the drama and the doc trigger big emotions.
The film will be broadcast on the BBC this summer to mark the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality, but keep an eye out for screenings at BFI Southbank and other venues, as it’s seriously worth seeing on a big screen surrounded by a sympathetic audience.
In this smart, sensitive drama, Alan Cumming gets a rare leading role as New York artist Sam, who is making a video piece about a now-dead friend with whom he demonstrated during the 1990s AIDS epidemic. But when Sam starts sleeping with the hot young Braeden (Zachary Booth), there’s a clash between older activists clinging to gay history and the younger forward-looking generation.
It’s all very talky, but the heavy conversations are pungent, knowingly grappling with important issues while flipping the usual cliches. And there are also intriguing side characters and realistic attitudes toward sex. Some plot points are rather odd, but it’s well worth a look as it reminds us that there’s a place for nostalgia, but moving on is important too.
From Canada, this intense drama tackles bullying with a story that’s viscerally involving. At the centre is 16 year old Tim (Antoine Olivier Pilon, the magnetic star of last year’s Mommy), who is closeted to everyone, including his gay best pal Francis (Robert Naylor), on whom he has a huge crush. As a gang of cruel bullies paralyse Tim with fear, he decides that his only recourse is to challenge his main tormenter (Lou-Pascal Tremblay) on the track team and beat his goal of running 800m in 1:54.
Where this goes is increasingly unnerving, as these teens become locked in a death match while parents and teachers watch on cluelessly. The emotions are so realistic that the film is often hard to watch, but it’s also timely and essential.