For his feature film debut, Boy Meets Boy, writer and director Daniel Sánchez López transports audiences to the streets of Berlin for a whirlwind holiday romance. After Harry (Matthew James Morrison) a doctor from Nottingham, comes to the end of a two day bender during a city break he meets local dancer Johannes (Alexis Koutsoulis). The pair immediately hits it off and spends the remaining time before Harry’s flight home wandering the capital’s streets and pondering all of life’s most curious questions about love, sex, relationships and Grindr!
If this sounds somewhat familiar then that’s probably because it is. Boy Meets Boy has undoubtedly taken influence from Richard Linklater’s much adored Before trilogy and the likes of Andrew Haigh’s stunning queer romance, Weekend. Unfortunately due to its similarities to films like these Boy Meets Boy welcomes unavoidable comparisons and rarely measures up. However, that doesn’t mean that the film is a trip that you’ll regret taking, as this debut still has much merit of its own.
Boy Meets Boy has a miniscule running time of only 75 minutes yet still manages to include a wide range of subjects for Harry and Johannes to discuss, as they explore the city. Nothing’s off limits and sex, religion and family are just a few of the topics that the pair exchange views on. However, it’s their frank discussion about gay dating apps and queer culture that’s possibly the most interesting. Maybe this is due to the fact that it’s just not that common to hear it talked about on screen but their thoughts and opinions on the vicious and unfulfilling cycle these apps provide will surely prove relatable for many viewers. The counter opinion of this is also explored though, as thanks to the writing of these characters, their varying lifestyles and experiences lead them to disagree on many things. This enriches the screenplay, creating more engaging dialogue for the viewers to appreciate and allows the characters, and therefore also the audience, to be exposed to different points of view from their own.
Although despite this interesting range of conversations, Boy Meets Boy doesn’t flow as naturally as it thinks it does. It jumps far too abruptly between different conversations and at times the screenplay feels like nothing more than a random topic generator carrying out a tick box kind of exercise. This results in the film holding various levels of intrigue throughout the short running time, spanning from completely engrossing to only fleetingly interesting. This makes Harry and Johannes’s city adventure at times feel disjointed and somewhat manufactured; however this is never as a result of the two leading performances which both feel thoughtful and genuine.
Where the film really excels though, is in the small character moments between Harry and Johannes. It captures the excitement of meeting someone new, the joys of attraction and the fun of getting to know someone. Much of this credit does go to the leading actors, who make every moment thoroughly convincing, but also to the careful camera work that helps to frame these small and seemingly insignificant moments. The brushing of arms against each other or a hand gently stroking a leg, these moments really capture the intimacy between these two men, effectively conveying all the physical and emotional feeling that a brief encounter or flirty fling entails. Furthermore the sex shared by Harry and Johannes is sensual and presented with a level of creativity not usually demonstrated in scenes like these, creating a more layered impact on audiences.
It’s undisputable that both Morrison and Koutsoulis make the film an effortless watch and with a better screenplay, Boy Meets Boy could have propelled their romantic encounter firmly into queer hearts with a more lasting effect. Unfortunately, the more scattered and less focused writing means that the film struggles to ground itself in these characters and prevents their story to reach its full potential. Boy Meets Boy plays out more like a pleasant and thought-provoking postcard from a capital city rather than the fully fledged experience of actually being there yourself. Better in isolated moments than as a whole, this isn’t a particularly memorable debut for López, but it does show a wealth of potential and anyway a queer cinematic city break is just too tempting of an offer to decline.