❉ A distinctive, stylised love letter to London’s legendary playground.
Writer/director Steve McLean says that with Postcards from London he set out to create a “love letter to Soho”, and he’s succeeded. Neon-splashed night time alleys conjure a stylised world of just-edgy-enough opportunity, danger and strangeness. McLean infuses this sensuous landscape with a specific artistic sensibility in a story that takes one young man further over the rainbow than Dorothy ever ventured.
Into the film’s heightened world tumbles Jim (rising star Harris Dickinson of Beach Rats, and TV’s Trust), a beautiful lad who’s fled his suffocating Essex home for London’s legendary playground.
Jim falls in with a diverse gang of “Raconteurs” – rent boys who target art-loving older gents and supplement their physical delights with culturally informed conversation. It’s all beautifully civilised as well as sexy.
Furthermore, Jim brings an almost spiritual extra dimension to the story via the mysterious nervous condition Stendhal’s Syndrome: in the presence of truly great art, he is emotionally overcome and faints. While he’s out, he fantasizes being part of various paintings, posing in arty tableaux with the other Raconteurs.
This entertainingly off-kilter aspect of the film allows it to fruitfully mine the twin fields of art and erotica, contrasting the often superficial sheen of gay sensibility with the deeper impulses of artistic creativity. Jim has a particular thing for Italian painter Caravaggio, whose life is explored in interesting but not exhaustive detail.
This is a distinctive and original film with much to recommend it. Although remarkably chaste for a gay film (there’s not so much as a snog) it is frank and authentic in its depiction of queer aesthetics, with the lost yet timeless Soho setting providing an apt background on which to paint a cultural portrait from an intriguing perspective.
❉ ‘Postcards From London’ (15) is available on VOD/ DVD & Blu-Ray from Peccadillo Pictures. Director: Steve Mclean. Cast: Harris Dickinson, Jonah Hauer-King, Alessandro Cimadamore, Leonardo Salerni, Raphael Desprez, Jerome Holder. Running time 89m.
❉ Nick Myles is a London-based writer and director. His stage plays have been produced at numerous London theatres, and at both the Edinburgh and Brighton Fringe Festivals. He has also contributed to Big Finish’s range of Dark Shadows audio plays. Twitter: Nick Myles