“Taken either as a lazy afternoon watch or a jumping-off point for discussion, ‘Boy Meets Boy’ has it within to satisfy a gay audience hungry for better films.”
Daniel Sánchez López’s debut feature-length film opens a Socratic dialogue between two very different, but compatible, men to stimulating results for the right audience.
When Harry (Matthew James Morrison) goes to Berlin to escape the monotony of working life, he meets the local Johannes (Alexandros Koutsoulis) at one of its many discotheques. Come the morning after a night of making out and taking drugs, the two decide to wander the city together before Harry’s flight back to the UK that night. This turns into a day-long discussion of morality, queerness, sex, monogamy, and cultural anxiety—problems that young gay men currently face.
As the day progresses, we get a sense of what makes each boy tick. Harry is intellectually driven and free-spirited, while Johannes is all emotion and snap judgement. There are scenes where their stark differences cause palpable friction between them—like during a Tinder dating discussion or an encounter with Mormon missionaries—but never enough to drive a wedge between them entirely. If anything, Johannes and Harry’s differences pull them together, making them all the more desirable to each other in their mutual fascination.
Though the premise of Boy Meets Boy hinges on discussion and ideological exploration, there’s a physicality to the film that keeps it from feeling like a visual novel. Much of the film is contemplative dialogue between the boys in still scenes. In its rarity, movement carries meaning. Harry and Johannes often explore each other’s bodies: feet touch, hands grab thighs, heads rest on shoulders. And because Johannes is a dancer, the two are often featured dancing—with or without music—in multiple scenes, whether they’re at the park or in the discotheque. It is in these moments that their relationship is at its most believable due to Morrison and Koutsoulis’s incredible physical chemistry, in which Harry follows Johannes until they’re mimicking each other’s movements. Even their characters’ sparring lends realism to their dysfunctional yet burgeoning relationship.
If there’s a complaint to be had, it would be with the characterization: It is both a feature and a bug that we see more of Johannes’s inner world than Harry’s. Harry is not only more introverted than Johannes, but he’s also never been in love or in a real relationship. There are crumbs of Harry’s life that tumble out in moments of vulnerability, such as when he considers discussing his career with Johannes and his internal conflict, in doing so, is unmasked by his frustrated expressions. But we are ultimately prevented from knowing Harry as well as the more extroverted Johannes, emphasized by the film’s sole focus on the latter both at the beginning and the end of the narrative. It would have worked better had both boys received the same level of attention.
Even so, the atmosphere is worth the admission alone. Cinematographer Hanna Marie Biørnstad has crafted a summer-yellow film out of dazzling Berlin sunlight and picturesque parks. Even when some of the dialogue falls short, and it does somewhat frequently, it’s easy to lose yourself in the day just as they have. The intellectualism of these characters occasionally falls into pretension, which is a shame because the breezy chemistry would otherwise suit the setting perfectly. That being said, the idea of an academically-inspired gay ‘Before Sunrise’ is enough to make some salivate, so there’s a potentially dedicated audience for this film out there.
Taken either as a lazy afternoon watch or a jumping-off point for discussion, Boy Meets Boy has it within to satisfy a gay audience hungry for better films. As it runs in film festivals and small local cinemas, it will surely be a fan favorite.
Directed by: Daniel Sánchez López
Produced by: Jay Lin, Daniel Sánchez López, Lucía Sapelli
Cast: Matthew James Morrison, Alexandros Koutsoulis
Release date: 6 September 2021 on digital/DVD