Boy Meets Boy, the debut directorial feature from Daniel Sánchez López, does everything in its power to subvert your expectations of what a romance film is.
From the silent, languid opening scene to its melancholic and sobering ending, Boy Meets Boy is an experience that shows love how it really is, rather than how Hollywood often romanticizes it.
The film follows Harry (Matthew James Morrison), a Nottingham-born junior doctor on a weekend break in Berlin. Immersing himself in the city’s gay scene, he meets Johannes (Alexis Koutsoulis), a dancer whose penchant for the abstract and philosophical proves alluring. Rather than following a stringent narrative thread, Boy Meets Boy instead takes the ‘hangout movie’ concept to its fullest extent, following the two men as they cherish every second they have together before the death knell of Harry’s flight home arrives.
It’s in the exploration of their time together that López’s directorial personality shines through, establishing rich conversations and sentimental moments with whimsy. It focuses on the minutiae of love—the small glances, the everyday moments, the banal conversations that both participants know will be forgotten in time—something films in this genre rarely do. López creates a playground where he and co-screenwriter Hannah Renton wax lyrical on vast swathes of topics: conversations on baby names, dating apps and their favourite types of cheese are all anchored by two lead performances with such electric chemistry that it can’t help but feel real. The visuals are equally stunning, with the camera drinking in the rich Berlin landscape, filled with vivid colour and abstract architecture that creates a beautiful setting for this courtship to manifest.
It truly feels like a lot of Boy Meets Boy was improvised: the off-the-cuff dialogue, flirtatious retorts and reactions to their surroundings are so natural, and while cliché, you truly believe Harry and Johannes are two young men falling for one another. Of course, love is far from simple, and their disparate views on what a relationship should entail is explored powerfully and ultimately painfully, as the distance between them and the secrets they hide boil over towards the end. It’s a battle of idealism versus pragmatism, love versus sex, and physical over mental, and it’s one where neither really ends up winning.
That’s why Boy Meets Boy is such an affecting and powerful experience, and a film certainly unlike many others in its genre. It portrays love as an unattainable conquest rather than a reality; it’s something that one can aspire to, but is never quite in the circumstances to obtain. Something akin to a fire: it can burn so brightly at one moment, almost too hot to go near, but equally can fizzle out in an instant. López doesn’t want you to hope for a happy ending, or to cherish the moments of flirtation and physical closeness—he wants you to know that for every happy moment, there’s something that can very well change that.
All this isn’t to say that Boy Meets Boy presents a pessimistic look at love and relationships: the small moments between Harry and Johannes are as beautiful as the glossy Berlin setting. López just opts for realism over everything, doing something far more affecting than most of the genre’s entries. By doing so, he tells a story that is equal parts painful as it is amorous.
Words by Luke Hinton
Read more reviews from BFI Flare:
- ‘Firebird’ Is Familiar, But Affecting: BFI Flare Review
- ‘The Obituary Of Tunde Johnson’ — A Bold Exploration Of Race And Sexuality: BFI Flare Review
- ‘Jump, Darling’ – Pathos, Performance And A Powerhouse Cloris Leachman: BFI Flare Review
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