Boy Meets Boy


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Boy Meets Boy
"Frequent close-ups build on the chemistry between the actors to capture that feeling when one individual suddenly seems bigger and brighter and louder than everything else in the world."

Do you believe in love at first sight? It’s not a concept that most people take very seriously, or at least not one they expect to apply to their own lives. There’s something else, though: that moment when on realises that one could fall in love with a particular person, that there’s something there which, if mutually indulged, would lead to a life-changing connection. it’s when we experience these moments that we must make choices about who we are and what we want. There are occasions when it’s starkly apparent that another few days together would make the terms of one’s established life unbearable.

Johannes (Alexandros Koutsoulis) and Harry (Matthew James Morrison) have only one day. They meet in a Berlin nightclub the night before Harry is due to fly back to London to resume his day to day life as a junior doctor. There is a shadow hanging over the film, here, which was not present when it was made, because we know the awful situation that awaits him if he stays on that course. These young men have no way of anticipating that, however, and their approach to life is joyful. They dance, fuck, then spend the day exploring the city. Only gradually does it emerge that Johannes feels constrained within his life because the social expectations that surround him; and that Harry is struggling in a different way, seeing so many possibilities around him that he can’t figure out what he actually wants to do.

In the course of their adventure, the two discuss everything from sex to religion, cheese and the internet. It’s a very personal journey through Berlin, highlighting some of the city’s nostalgic artefacts like photo booths and cybercafés. Director Daniel Sanchez Lopez uses a lot of handheld camera shots and natural light to create an impression of immediacy, but there’s nothing casual about his style – we see exactly what he wants us to see, taking in the gaily painted brutalist buildings which tower overhead, the elegant modern plazas, the movement of crowds, the continued physical intimacy between the two leads. Harry, wary of emotional entanglements, says he makes a point of never sleeping with the same guy twice, yet he can’t keep his hands off Johannes. Frequent close-ups build on the chemistry between the actors to capture that feeling when one individual suddenly seems bigger and brighter and louder than everything else in the world. Koutsoulis supplements this with an increasing tendency to gaze off into the distance; Johannes wants more but doesn’t know how to say so. As they discuss names for a theoretical child, the hours tick away.

Will they decide to make more of a go of this? Lopez leaves that question open all the way to the end. There’s a sense that, because they don’t know either, they are trying to cram every aspect of a years-long relationship into the time that they have. Alongside this, however, is that magic that David Lean captured so well in Brief Encounter. Even if this is only a fleeting thing, it matters; it will influence the rest of their lives. Intelligently written and beautifully played, this is one for the romantics, but it’s smart enough to appeal to a broader audience too. One of the highlights of Newfest 2021, it is by turns celebratory and sweetly melancholic, but always a pleasure to watch.

Reviewed on: 18 Oct 2021
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Boy Meets Boy packshot
A brief encounter in a Berlin nightclub changes the course of two lives.

Director: Daniel Sanchez Lopez

Writer: Daniel Sanchez Lopez, Hannah Renton

Starring: Matthew James Morrison, Alexandros Koutsoulis

Year: 2021

Runtime: 75 minutes

Country: Germany

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