Much like how Pulp Fiction spawned an entire genre of poor imitators, Andrew Haigh’s 2011 film Weekend has a lot to answer for. The beautiful simplicity of that whirlwind gay romance seems effortless in the hands of such an accomplished filmmaker, to the extent that countless other filmmakers have seen it and assumed they too could pull it off. Naturally, a film like Boy Meets Boy is destined to live in the shadow of such a landmark moment in gay cinema, following many of the same beats but with little in the way of new inspiration.
The faces and the location may have changed, but the story remains more or less the same. Harry (Matthew James Morrison) is coming to the end of his hedonistic getaway in Berlin, hooking up with Johanes (Alexandros Koutsoulis) in a nightclub on his final night in the city. The pair hit it off and agree to spend the day together, nominally so Johannes can help Harry print off his boarding pass ready for the flight home. But, just as these things always go, upon spending the day together and finding their differing perspectives of life in contemporary gay culture, realise they may be thinking about each other for long after Harry’s flight leaves for London.
Photo © Courtesy of BFI Flare
From this description, it should also be obvious that Weekend isn’t the only overbearing influence hanging over director Daniel Sánchez López’ film. With its European city location, and narrative about two lost souls who develop a connection over the course of a few hours, it’s no secret that Boy Meets Boy aspires to be the gay Before Sunrise. But the success of this approach all relies on the palpable chemistry of the two leads – and the two are written to be the kind of opposites who you don’t want to see attract. This isn’t to the detriment of the two naturalistic performances by Morrison and Koutsoulis, but rather a screenplay that wants us to view their connection with rose tinted romantic glasses. The pair don’t make sense as anything more than a hook up, and as we spend more time listening to their tedious arguments about contemporary gay hook up culture (which, coincidentally, Weekend already did ten years ago), they never blossom into a believable partnership. The sexual chemistry is there through the body language of the two performers, but the rest of the equation is left sorely lacking.
Photo © Courtesy of BFI Flare
The screenplay offers little in the way of nuance when it comes to analysing the two characters’ different perspectives on the world. Contrived obstacles emerge on the pair’s jaunt around Berlin to evoke their arguments on everything from their views on religion and the morality of those who practice it, and of course, the idea of intimacy in the age of Grindr. López boldly opens the film with a shot of Harry taking a nude photo for someone on the app, jump cutting to the pair getting out of bed after the deed is done. Nothing else about the film’s observations on sex in the age of dating apps is quite as bold, and after Harry meets Johannes and the pair start talking about their sexual histories, we’re instead treated to reheated conversations that were done to better effect in Weekend a decade prior. At one point, it’s briefly referenced that Harry is from Nottingham, where that film took place – a coincidence, perhaps, but if this is a nod to a much superior influence, it only highlights why you should opt to rediscover that film instead.
Boy Meets Boy is an insufferable mumblecore tale, a breakneck gay romance of the type you’ve seen done a million times before to much greater effect.
Written by Alistair Ryder
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