The title of Daniel Sánchez López’s debut feature film, Boy Meets Boy, does a perfectly succinct job setting up the broad outline of the story: this is a gay romance. You likely already have an idea in your mind of the film’s story. It’s a gay romance about that initial spark of attraction, that first moment where your eyes lock with a handsome man across a crowded dance floor, and you think there could be something here.
And, indeed, that is what Boy Meets Boy is about. Harry (Matthew James Morrison) is a Black man from London, partying it up on a long weekend in Berlin. Johannes (Alexandros Koutsoulis), on the other hand, is a hapless German guy who can’t seem to figure out what he wants. They meet at an all-night club in the early morning of the day Harry is meant to fly back to England; after kissing passionately, Johannes offers to spend the day with Harry.
As Boy Meets Boy unfurls, though — taking place over this one long, lust-soaked afternoon and this one long flirtatious conversation – it becomes clear that the film has more on its mind than just that initial spark. Like its most obvious forefather, Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, Boy Meets Boy wants to explore what needs to happen for that spark to smolder into an ember and then a fire.
When Boy Meets Boy, Chemistry is Everything.
Before Sunrise worked as well as it did because of the chemistry between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, any film that attempts to replicate that movie’s unconventional structure needs two actors who are up for the challenge; thankfully, Boy Meets Boy delivers. When Harry and Johannes first meet, it just feels right. They’re both gently flirtatious with one another, both instantly attracted to one another and willing to see where the day takes them. Queer characters (realistically or otherwise) are often more willing to jump right to sexual contact than their straight counterparts. The film’s script (co-written by the director along with Hannah Renton) smartly introduces a complication that keeps Harry and Johannes from heading right back to someone’s room: Harry has a flight in a few hours, and he hasn’t printed his boarding pass yet.
This sets up the film’s best sequence, a tandem bike ride across the city to an internet cafe. It’s Johannes’s bike, and he pedals standing up so that Harry can sit. While they ride, Harry traces his fingers over Johannes’s back, up and down his legs, around his thigh. It’s filmed beautifully, intimately, a genuine moment of human connection. Harry also quizzes Johannes about his preferences, asking him, “Top or bottom?” and “Giving a blow job, or having a blow job given to you?”… questions Johannes sidesteps.
The First Spark Only Goes So Far…
As the day drags on, however, Boy Meets Boy wants its characters to explore more than the fact that they are both attractive gay men who are attracted to one another. That commonality crossed all other boundaries at first — race, socioeconomic status, country — but as they get to know each other better and begin to feel out the contours of what a relationship would look like, they start to realize that attraction may not be sustainable. Boy Meets Boy recognizes that “boy meets boy” is not so much the outline of the story but a starting point; the characters must feel their way forward and make of that initial setup what they will. Sexual attraction may supersede things like race and country, but building an actual relationship often does not.
The film is both helped and hampered by its time constraints. The ticking-clock nature of their relationship gives the story dramatic momentum and helps with the romantic tension: will they or won’t they sleep together before Harry has to get on his flight home? However, that kind of hard-stop to the day doesn’t land as hard as it did back in 1995 in Before Sunrise, or even in 2004’s Before Sunset when Ethan Hawke too needed to catch a flight. When Harry says to Johannes, “I may never see you again,” it’s not much of a threat in the age of social media and cheap flights from London to Germany. They could make this work if they wanted to. But the question is… do they?
In addition, the film is a scant 75 minutes long; I would have liked a couple of the conversations to be given more room to breathe. There are times when Harry and Johannes are at odds with one another, realizing they have world-views that may be in opposition; a quick cut and a sly smile later, and they’re back to flirting.
Boy Meets Boy Fits Right in With Modern Queer Cinema
Films like Andrew Haigh’s Weekend sparked a small, intimate subgenre of Queer filmmaking over the past decade. Films like Boy Meets Boy, where the primary conflict isn’t necessarily anything dramatic but is instead more of a character question: after, in addition to, instead of the sex, can these two make it work? Matt Fifer and Kieran Mulcare‘s Cicada (also playing at the Wicked Queer Film Festival) fits this type of conflict, as does Hong Khaou’s Monsoon. Boy Meets Boy is a lovely, worthy addition to the canon.
How to watch Boy Meets Boy
Boston’s 37th Annual Wicked Queer Film Festival is virtual this year, accessible around the United States. The feature films available during their #GAYPRIL event are streaming from April 8-18th; tickets are available here.