I doubt anyone thought, back when Peccadillo released its first collection of gay shorts in 2009, that this series would reach volume 17. But here we are with nine more superb short films that break boundaries in their explorations of love and lust.
The highlight in this set is Happy & Gay (US/10mins), animated in black and white in the lively style of 1930s cartoons. Witty and detailed, it’s simply hilarious, with a clever plot about same-sex couples visiting an underground club to dance the night away, ending up in a brilliant showdown between God and the devil.
Three films feature young boys. In Kiss Me Softly (Belgium/16mins), a teen makes a bold statement to his parents about his sexuality; Boys (US/14mins) centres on a summertime encounter between two friends who are too young to understand their lust; and Alex and the Handyman (US/14mins) goes even younger, as a preteen acts on his crush for a hunky builder.
At the other end of the spectrum, and one of the best films in the line up, Mr Sugar Daddy (Sweden/13mins) follows a pensioner into a pulsing gay club where he picks up a much younger man. The most provocative film is Hole (Canada/15mins), a strikingly well-produced drama about a physically disabled gay man who needs help to enact his desires. And Pedro (Portugal/20mins) is the sexiest short, as a young man visits a beach with his mother and gets up to some business in the bushes.
There are also two British films in the collection: Spoilers (22mins) is a lively comedy that plays with movie references as it follows a lovelorn film fan who meets a sexy-beardy guy on a flight to Cardiff. And the one film that kind of doesn’t fit in here, Tellin’ Dad (UK/15mins) opens with a hot sex scene before settling into its tale of a guy trying to pluck up the courage to come out to his dad (played by The Royle Family’s Ricky Tomlinson).
All of these shorts have a strong kick to them. It’s easy to identify with how each guy feels as he struggles to make sense of desires that seem to be so integral to who he is. And while some films have punchlines or strong endings, several leave story and themes hanging in the air for us to think about for a long time afterwards. At least until volume 18 arrives.