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Boy meets Boy

One of those dance practise halls where the walls are covered in mirrors. It is empty apart from a lone male doing one of those dances that is as much gymnastics as anything else to the dance version of that maudlin song by Styx. He’s not terrible but he’s also not that great. He nearly does a handstand. He throws his body around with perseverance.

This opening scene is a good metaphor for the film we’re about to see. Boy meets Boy is pleasant enough. As tonight was the premiere, it was introduced by the director and other people who made the film, who seemed like very affable people. I’d guess that at least two-thirds of the audience were people who’d worked on the film and their relatives. Every name on the opening credits was cheered to the rafters.

It had the feeling of being in a room showing home movies where you were the only one who isn’t personally acquainted with the people in the film. And this is the sort of film where it really helps if you’re invested in the characters. When they share their deepest thoughts, if you don’t really know them, you’re a little too quick to notice that these thoughts aren’t very deep at all.

Anyway, back to the film. Two men in their twenties meet in a club in Berlin. Johannes is an absent-minded German who’s just come back to look for his wallet. He is a professional dancer with a nice smile. Harry has been partying for 48 hours. He’s a junior doctor from Briton who’s on the last day of a long week-end of dancing and sex and is flying back at 11pm.

Johannes takes Harry to some of Berlin’s less glamourous locations. They go to an Internet café to print out Harry’s boarding pass and play around on Microsoft Paint. They go to Potsdamer Platz which Harry says is like nowhere in Berlin that he’s ever seen. He’s talking about the bankers, but this is hardly the hidden Berlin that only locals know. They go on the top of a roof with the television tower at Alexanderplatz in the background, because, well, that’s what they did in Victoria, isn’t it?

On their travels, they talk. About relationships – Harry finds it difficult to sleep with anyone more than once, while Johannes is in a relationship that’s more open than he’d like. About neoliberalism – Harry’s against it, Johannes is less keen to make a final decision. And about whether gay men are allowed to watch football or should be compelled to cheer on Eurovision.

Some of the issues that they address could be profound. They are both, in their own way, facing existential despair. Johannes is obviously disturbed that he can’t reproduce his parents’ blissful marriage and wants to have a child. Harry is disillusioned with his job and regularly considers jacking it all in and becoming an abortion doctor. Or a tree surgeon. Or a cheese maker. He never does.

Incidentally, what they don’t talk about is homophobia or racism – Harry is black. They live in a bubble where oppression doesn’t exist, or, more likely, is nothing that you want to talk about in public. Harry’s problem with neoliberalism and environmental destruction is on an entirely abstract level – these are not things about which you can actually do anything.

The problem is, while the subjects that they raise are occasionally interesting, these are likeable but not particularly interesting people. Although they have differing views on a number of issues, they never argue – except once, when Harry finds it hard to understand why Johannes is satisfied in a relationship where his boyfriend calls the shots. They raise potentially fascinating points, but have nothing important to say about them.

Boy meets Boy is the film that we worried Before Sunrise would be before it turned not to be too bad after all. It’s too men coming down from drugs having a solipsistic conversation where neither seems too interested in what the other has to say – which is fair enough, as neither of them is saying anything memorable. If they were your mates, you’d indulge them, but no-one else has any real need to hear them.

Look, I’m probably not the person to judge this. This is a film about and for young gay men, and I’m not a young gay man. I’m sure there are people who find chatter about dating apps invigorating. Look, I’m all for diversity, and there’s something slightly more progressive in watching slightly dull gay characters rather than the usual straight stereotypes. But it’s not something that I’ll be rushing to see again.

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