‘Boys on Film 17: Love is the Drug’ reviewed

Love Is The Drug is the latest compilation of gay short films from Peccadillo.   

Peccadillo Pictures presents the latest in their DVD range of collected gay short films.  As always, there’s a loose theme to link the shorts and Love is the Drug is a pretty loose theme, tenuous at best in some cases, although one can understand the necessity of having some sort of link that collects the shorts together.

Like the others in the series, this stands or falls on the quality of the shorts themselves, so what do we have this time round?

Alex and the Handyman tells the story of lonely, and precocious, nine year old Alex, who develops an instant and obsessive crush on handyman Jared.  Keaton Nigel Cooke gives a particularly impressive performance as Alex, and is well supported by writer/director Nicholas Colia.  There’s a surprisingly dark turn towards the end which elevates this from being a simple coming-of-age story.

Mr Sugar Daddy sees us visit a club in Sweden as older Hans pursues young Andrej.  If anything, this one was too short, Hans being a particularly interesting character whose story could probably sustain a feature film.  We know so much and yet so little about him, and one hopes that writer/director Dawid Ullgren uses the short to raise money for a longer film of the same story.  Hans is rounded enough to carry it off.

Spoilers is simply delightful, a charming, warm and moving love story in which a random encounter between two men promises to lead to lasting happiness, provided the fears that both Leon and Felix have don’t consume them completely.  It’s the highlight of the collection and, yes, it’s a something of a fairy tale, but fairy tales survive because they need to be told, and people need to hear them.

Tellin’ Dad is a coming out story, which while being predictable in the extreme (given that every character Scouse Dan comes out to is worried about what his father’s reaction is going to be, there really only was one possible outcome, particularly when Ricky Tomlinson’s presence is announced with the opening title) is still joyously moving in its own way.

Boys looks at the friendship of two young boys on the cusp of adolescence, and what happens when they almost cross a previously unknown line.  It’s a story familiar to any gay man, because it’s an experience we’ve all known at some point in our youth, and it’s a shame that the film ends at its most interesting point – there’s no resolution, no further exploration of what crossing that line would entail, or even begin to mean for each of the boys concerned.

The eponymous Hole of the next short is the glory hole in the pornographic cinema visited by disabled Billy.  Billy’s homosexuality is less of an issue for him than his disability, and this film takes an unflinchingly cold look at the difficulties faced by a disabled man in the gay community.  It’s not that Billy even experiences any particular prejudice (he never gets close enough to anyone to experience such rejection – his disability is too much of an issue in the first place), and this thought-provoking short is beautifully played by Ken Harrower who portrays Billy without an ounce of self-pity.  It’s a powerful film and a moving one.

Happy and Gay is powerful in its own way too – it’s also a stunningly accurate recreation of the Golden Age of animation, albeit with a gay twist.  The presence of two gay couples is perhaps the only aspect of this that betrays its decade of origin, so good is the animation.  This feels exactly like it’s supposed to, and manages it without any knowing winks at the audience.

If anyone is interested in a taster, the cartoon is available to view on YouTube:-

Any selection of short films is going to have a weakest entry, and Pedro is Boys on Film 17’s.  It’s not that there’s anything particularly wrong with the film, more that there’s nothing particularly right about it either.  A meandering and lengthy look at a day in the life of a young Portuguese man, Pedro doesn’t really go anywhere.  We see Pedro have internet sex via a webcam.  We see Pedro visit the beach with his mother.  We see Pedro cop off with a random man he meets on the beach.  And that’s it.  We never really get to know Pedro, nor why he seems disassociated from his own life, and as a character study it’s pretty lacking.  The scenery’s nice, though, which contributes to the film’s bucolic atmosphere.

Kiss Me Softly is far better, a coming out story from Belgium which features one of the most authentically terrible and cheesy (and therefore wonderful) Europop songs I’ve ever heard.  Kiss Me Softly is the title of the song being used to launch the album of Jasper’s singing father, Luk.  It’s a dreadful song, and perfectly in-keeping with what we see of Luk, a self-absorbed and mostly absent (most particularly when he’s present) father.  Will Jasper and his boyfriend Mathias find lasting happiness or even acceptance from Luk?

Another short that’s crying out for a feature-film expansion, this is a great film with a likeable cast.  The story it tells is a familiar one, but the characters are more than interesting enough to sustain it, and it’s one of the strongest on the disc.  The song’s the icing on the cake, and it’s a bonus that one of the extras of the DVD is a making of for this one.

Like the previous 16 entries, Boys on Film 17 offers a mixed bunch of films which should offer something for every viewer, and they cover a huge range of gay experiences, so if one film doesn’t speak to you, the next will.  Highly recommended.

❉ ‘Boys On Film 17: Love Is The Drug’ is released on DVD and VOD by Peccadillo Pictures. Running time: 140 mins.  RRP £15.99. Click here to buy on DVD or VOD from Peccadillo Pictures.

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