Boy Meets Boy begins as Harry (Matthew James Morrison) and Johannes (Alexandros Koutsoulis) share a kiss on the sweaty dance floor of a Berlin club. The sun comes up and Harry, a tourist who’s been partying for two days straight, laments that he’ll barely have time to see the city before his flight back to the UK that same evening. Johannes offers to show him around, and so the pair, still a bit high, spend a gorgeous summer’s day wandering through Berlin, chatting away about their outlooks on life.
“Sunrise or sunset?” Johannes slips into a quickfire game of “would you rather”. If this is a wink to Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, which Boy Meets Boy is clearly indebted to, it risks setting the wrong expectations for this film. This isn’t the idealised romance of Before Sunrise; rather, it’s a much smaller story of a brief but meaningful connection that might just change its protagonists’ perspectives of themselves. As that, it’s fairly successful – though this reviewer did find himself wishing the film’s ambitions were a tad bigger.
The filmmakers have struck gold with Morrison and Koutsoulis, whose wonderfully naturalistic performances suggest the beginning of two very interesting careers. A share of the credit, of course, must go to director Daniel Sánchez López and cinematographer Hanna Marie Biørnstad, who find inventive ways of making the intimacy between the leads feel especially tactile and heartfelt.
The screenplay is more of a mixed bag. A good chunk of the pair’s conversation is dedicated to their views on sex and relationships, and while this risks straying into clichés of contemporary gay dramas – Harry is a dating app addict, Johannes fears his desire for monogamy puts him at odds with the queer community – these scenes are handled well. At other points, such as when Harry suddenly becomes very articulate about inadequate neoliberal responses to climate change, the writing isn’t strong enough to distract from the feeling that this is just the writers ranting through their protagonists.
There’s also the issue that the filmmakers are much better at shooting their leads than the city – a huge missed opportunity for a film set in somewhere as interesting and diverse as Berlin. Harry and Johannes visit an internet café, then a regular café, then a park, then a dance studio, then a rooftop, but there’s nothing visually or narratively particular to distinguish anything they do as special or even significant. This might be the point, but it doesn’t make for compelling cinema.
Boy Meets Boy screened as part of the BFI Flare LGBTIQ+ Film Festival.