The French teen drama Hidden Kisses (out now on VOD) takes a complex and remarkably involving approach as it explores the complex impact of homophobia on society. At the centre is 15-year-old Nathan (Berenger Anceaux), a new kid at school who falls for boxer Louis (Jules Houplain). But their first secret kiss is caught on camera and sent to the entire school on Facebook. This of course causes chaos in class, with teachers drawn into the fray and a gang of jocks lining up to torment Nathan and discover who is the other, unrecognisable boy in the photo. Meanwhile, Louis has a girlfriend with her own set of questions. And the issue also causes ripples at home, as parents react in very different ways, and some face their own bullying at work.
Thankfully, the film never simplifies any of this. The plot evolves organically, and feels almost unnervingly realistic. The film is also raw and honest about the issue of sexuality, and there are several surprising twists and turns that add nuance even to some of the fringe characters. It helps that the gifted, brave cast underplay every scene, from the teens to the veteran French actors as their parents and teachers.
Director Didier Bivel reveals various forms of bigotry as the gripping story progresses, from everyday taunting and ugly violence to more subtle attitudes and the serious harm caused by silence on the topic, such as banning its teaching in schools. In other words, the film couldn’t be more timely, proving that homophobia needs to be taught especially to children of parents who don’t want it in the curriculum. But it’s the personal stories of the characters that will have you in tears. Essential. Jack Cline
The Shiny Shrimps
Aside from Rocketman, obviously, this summer’s biggest gay movie is The Shiny Shrimps (in cinemas 6 Sep), a French comedy-drama based on the true story of an unruly water polo team preparing for the Gay Games, with a straight swimmer court-ordered to train them after he’s charged with homophobia. The film starts as a feel-good romp with spiky comical edges, evolving into a raucous Priscilla-style road movie as the team takes a double-decker bus across Europe. Later, the tone shifts in unexpected directions. And since virtually every scene features hot men cavorting in speedos, it’s basically unmissable.
Documenting Britain’s Pride movement, Are You Proud? (26 Jul in cinemas, 29 Jul on VOD) is a thoughtful, eye-opening exploration of both the fight for gay rights and the struggle against the corporate take-over of Pride marches in the UK. Urgent and provocative.
ALSO IN CINEMAS: Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern star in JT LeRoy (16 Aug), about the queerest, most outrageous literary hoax in history. Sharply well made, with terrific performances. • Antonio Banderas won Best Actor at Cannes for playing a fading filmmaker in Pain & Glory (23 Aug), an autobiographical drama from gay icon Pedro Almodovar. • The spin-off Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw (1 Aug) gives Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham their own muscle-bulging, car-flipping adventure. • And don’t miss the riotously entertaining documentary Hail Satan? (23 Aug), which isn’t actually about satan-worshippers. They’re disruptors who use “satan” as a trigger word to take on the religious right. They’re also hilarious.
Ludicrously gorgeous Instagram star Max Emerson wrote and directed Hooked (out now), a sexy thriller that follows an 18-year-old rentboy (Conor Donnally) on a dangerous odyssey from New York to Manhattan. It’s great to see a film tackle issues like prostitution and drugs so full-on, even if the script is a little pushy. Still, the chemistry is lusty and the cute boys are engaging.
ALSO ON VOD: From Slovenia, Consequences (out now) is a tough, abrasive reform school drama about two cocky teen boys who have drug-fuelled sex and have to decide what to do next. It’s fierce and brutally honest. • Always Say Yes (out now) sends a young rural gay Mexican on an odyssey in the big city, where he enjoys lots of naked, on-screen sex. It’s also a great story, beautifully told. • The excellent South African Apartheid-era musical-drama Canary (26 Aug) follows a lively gay guy through his military service. • From Brazil, Hard Paint (26 Aug) is a powerfully involving, steaming hot drama about webcam sex performers. JC