Theo and Hugo (2016)

  Sex before marriage used to be a big deal but in the age of readily available smartphone apps and sex clubs, coitus before a conversation has become an au-courant manner to meet new people — especially for younger generations. It is thus something of a surprise that there aren’t more films like Paris 5:59 (Theo & Hugo dans le meme bateau), the story of two cute guys who get to know each other and might even fall in love… after having first copulated for 20 minutes — the movie’s in real time! — in a sex dungeon.

Average Rating: 6,2/10
Country: France
Language: French
Release Date: 27 April 2016 (France)
Duration: 1h 37min
Genre: Drama, Romance 
Director: Olivier Ducastel, Jacques Martineau
Writer: Olivier Ducastel, Jacques Martineau
Stars: Geoffrey Couët, François Nambot, Mario Fanfani
Synopsis: Theo and Hugo meet each other in a sex club in Paris. After building a special connection while having sex, the meet outside the club where they realize they had unprotected sex. Since one of them is HIV positive, they go to the hospital to get checked and start the required treatment. You see the boys spend the night together and fall in love after this incident.
    Cineastes will see parallels with Andrew Haigh’s Weekend and Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset among other films (the original French tile, Theo & Hugo dans le meme bateau, tips its hat to Jacques Rivette), but the film has its own specific vibe, thanks in part to the writer-directors’ unique, immersive sense of the milieu and the leads’ tender chemistry. Inky shots of Paris with neon lights reflected in puddles are glittery bonus feature.
  The best scene of the film is definitely the opening scene, an explicit orgy in a backroom that renders the platform for the two main characters to meet, and for us to become acquainted to them


Downriver (2015)

 Downriver is a simple tale with added elements that try to make it thought-provoking. Like most films of its ilk and considering the strong subject matter, it does not give you all the answers, and in its strongest moments evoke gloom, guilt and repression through the moody cinematography. This is downplayed somewhat by the harsh natural lighting, but the dark intention is still there. There is sparse music that is not used very effectively throughout and a few visual effects that are not used enough.

Average Rating: 6,5/10
Country: USA
Language: Australia
Release Date: 7 August 2015 (Australia)
Duration: 1h 39min
Genre: Drama
Director: Grant Scicluna
Writer: Grant Scicluna
Stars: Reef Ireland, Kerry Fox, Robert Taylor
Synopsis: James has served time for drowning a little boy when he was a child, although the body was never found in the river. A visit from his victim's mother upon parole sends him on a quest to find the truth. With little time and danger at every turn, James risks his freedom and his life to uncover the trail of sins that might give closure to the grieving mother.
  The actor gets to play quite a panoply of emotions as his character strives for self acceptance, healing and redemption.
  Sexuality plays a surprisingly large part in this narrative, another intrepid ingredient by the filmmaker in depicting some prickly content as several young men are in various relationships and graphic encounters which are played with a naturalism which will be welcomed by some, but i suspect not all audiences.


Undertow (2009)

  This movie was simply awesome! One of the best new films exploring gay male identity, love and relationships, and likely will be a worthy addition to many personal "favorite gay films" lists. It will haunt you.

Average Rating: 7,8/10
Country: Peru | Colombia
Language: Spanish
Release Date: 16 April 2010 (Colombia)
Duration: 1h 37min
Genre: Drama, Romance 
Director: Javier Fuentes-León
Writer: Javier Fuentes-León
Stars: Cristian Mercado, Tatiana Astengo, Manolo Cardona
Synopsis: An unusual ghost story set on the Peruvian seaside; a married fisherman struggles to reconcile his devotion to his male lover within his town's rigid traditions.
   A small movie with a full heart, “Undertow” takes an old idea — the loving, lingering ghost — and gives it reverberant, resuscitated life. The story unwinds gracefully and with slow-building emotion in a tiny seaside village in remotest Peru, where, save for a few modern conveniences, people live much as they probably did decades earlier, pulling fish from the sea and bound by communal interdependence. There, a young fisherman, Miguel (Cristian Mercado), awaits the birth of his first child, an event that fills him with so much happiness that he shares his bliss generously with his beloved wife and his more adored male lover.
   Profoundly moving. A fishing village that seems to come out of somebody's dream. A loving husband about to become a father and a forbidden love. Cristian Mercado in a beautifully drawn performance takes us into his own predicament with honesty and astonishing tenderness. The emotional details of his love for another man are nothing short of extraordinary.
   More than anything it is the image of Miguel walking in the village alongside the dead Santiago, shyly and then boldly touching his lover because he finally can, that illustrates this modest movie’s power. Like Santiago this vision of an effusive yet mournfully compromised happiness lingers, and it will haunt you.


Free Fall (2013)

   Germany’s 2013 gay film “Free Fall” (Freier Fall) went on to become an unexpected hit and is to no surprise found on many lists of top gay films in recent years. Due to its success, fans who have been left wondering what became of the two main characters at the end of the film may not have to wonder much longer as the speculation of a sequel has now been confirmed to be a real possibility.

Average Rating: 7,6/10
Country: Germany
Language: German
Release Date: 23 May 2013 (Germany)
Duration: 1h 40min
Genre: Drama, Romance 
Director: Stephan Lacant
Writer: Stephan Lacant
Stars: Hanno Koffler, Max Riemelt, Attila Borlan
Synopsis: With a promising police career and a baby on the way, Marc's life seems to be right on track - then he meets fellow policeman Kay. During their regular jogs, Marc experiences a never-before-felt sense of ease and effortlessness - and what it means to fall in love with another man. Torn between his family and his new feelings for Kay, Marc sees his world careening more and more out of control. Suddenly, his life is in free fall and Marc realizes that, try as he may, he can't make everyone happy - least of all himself.  
   This film is very, very erotic and just as exotic in the way the story is presented. From a film point of view it is unique in that the film's construction is very new, so new in fact that you marvel at just how seamlessly it is all put together.
  The cast is uniformly superb, with the three lead actors truly shining in a very believable way. The story itself is quite passé especially in view of the progress made with gay rights in Europe and Germany in particular. But the two male leads are so hot who cares? And the third supporting actor, an absolutely stunning woman, is a perfect foil for the two men who are bouncing off the walls for each other. As a film buff myself and also as an individual who has seen virtually every good film made with a gay plot, I can say this film stands at the very top, the highest peak, in just how beautifully the story is told.


Weekend (2011)

  The British independent film "Weekend" suggests a truth: "Sex is easy. Love is hard." The movie involves two gay men, who meet in a bar, wake up in bed the next morning and begin a conversation that unexpectedly grows very deep. Some aspects involve homosexuality, but this isn't a "gay film." Most people can identify with Russell and Glen.

Average Rating: 7,7/10
Country: UK
Language: English
Release Date: 4 November 2011 (UK)
Duration: 1h 37min
Genre: Drama, Romance 
Director: Andrew Haigh
Writer: Andrew Haigh
Stars: Tom Cullen, Chris New, Jonathan Race
Synopsis: After a drunken house party with his straight mates, Russell heads out to a gay club. Just before closing time he picks up Glen but what's expected to be just a one-night stand becomes something else, something special.
    "Weekends, like life, are short." That melancholy reflection from Kind Hearts and Coronets does justice to some of Andrew Haigh's unassumingly excellent lo-fi feature: a boy-meets-boy love story extending over a single weekend, and filmed with a kind of real-time realism. There is sadness here, as well as romance, and a sense that sexual experience is not merely exciting for its own sake, but an adventure in defining one's sense of self: what one character here calls finding both partner and your self as a blank slate. Weekend has something urgent to say to both gay and straight audiences about the windows of opportunity in our lives.
   Haigh's concern is always to refocus our attention on to a subject: how Glen and Russell are going to work out their problems and find love. It is a tender, humane film, with an easy, unforced cinematic language: a film that doesn't need to try too hard.


Four Moons (2014)

  One new couple is trying to get things together. One longtime couple is trying not to break apart. One paunchy, white-bearded man in a towel is trying to get some satisfaction in a steam room. And one angelic 11-year-old is learning that his priest doesn’t want to hear about a young boy’s sexual stirrings. With those stories, Sergio Tovar Velarde’s “4 Moons” (“Cuatro Lunas”) paints a spirited and sensitive portrait of gay boys and men in 21st-century Mexico.

Average Rating: 7,4/10
Country: Mexico
Language: Spanish
Release Date: 12 February 2015 (Mexico)
Duration: 1h 50min
Genre: Drama, Romance 
Director: Sergio Tovar Velarde
Writer: Sergio Tovar Velarde
Stars: Antonio Velázquez, Alejandro de la Madrid, Cesar Ramos
Synopsis: Four stories about love and self-acceptance: An eleven year-old boy struggles to keep secret the attraction he feels towards his male cousin. Two former childhood friends reunite and start a relationship that gets complicated due to one of them's fear of getting caught. A gay long lasting relationship is in jeopardy when a third man comes along. An old family man is obsessed with a young male prostitute and tries to raise the money to afford the experience. 
    It is not a collection of short movies, but it tells four separate stories. Each story corresponds to one of the four phases of the moon: new, half waxing, full, and half waning; and each has a gay protagonist at a roughly corresponding time of life: late childhood, late teens or very early 20s, middle 30s, and old age. Each protagonist faces challenges typically faced by gay males at those times of life, but presented in entirely original ways.
   This is a very ambitious movie - it attempts to give a comprehensive look at an entire lifetime of gay experiences. Not only that, but it does so with such originality that none of the four stories seemed like just a rehashing of the same old gay coming-out/mid-life-crisis/etc formulas. 4 Moons is fresh and new, not like any gay movie that came before it.
   This is not a great film, but it is very good.


Thats Not Us (2015)

  There is not all that much to That’s Not Us. It is a story of small arguments amongst relatively privileged individuals that does not pretend to be about much more. Sullivan wisely avoids drawing too many overt parallels between the three couples. Suffice it to say that no matter whom you love, you can have mundane difficulties. Weightless though it may be, That’s Not Us is charmingly filmed and inescapably endearing. That is more than enough.

Average Rating: 7,1/10
Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: 21 June 2015 (USA)
Duration: 1h 37min
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance 
Director: William Sullivan
Writer: Derek Dodge
Stars: Mark Berger, Elizabeth Gray, Tommy Nelms
Synopsis: That's Not Us is an intimate portrait of three twenty-something couples as they travel to a beach house to enjoy the last days of summer. But what should be a fun and carefree weekend becomes an exploration of what it takes to sustain a healthy relationship and make love last in what is now being called the "gayest generation." Through each of the three couples - one gay, one lesbian, and one straight - That's Not Us explores sex and relationships with a fresh perspective, finding that while sexuality and gender may vary, the struggles to keep love alive do not. 
   “That’s Not Us” is an improvised romantic comedy that follows three couples — one gay, one lesbian, one straight — as they travel to Fire Island to enjoy the last days of summer. But what should be a fun beach weekend actually shines a hard light on what it takes to make love last.
  This is a film that portrays the different dilemmas that many relationships face. But rather than presenting the solutions to them, it explores the experiences — the funny, the painful, the embarrassing, the sexy — of working through them. Each character in this story has an experience of feeling separated, either physically or emotionally, from their partner. The process of rediscovering themselves and their partner is the essence of what the film captures. ‘

Those People (2015)

  There’s a great quote by Lao Tzu that says, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” That quote echoes through Joey Khuns’s first feature film, Those People – a story about unrequited love, relationships, family, and confronting fears.

Average Rating: 6,2/10
Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: 6 May 2016 (USA)
Duration: 1h 29min
Genre: Drama, Romance 
Director: Joey Kuhn
Writer: Joey Kuhn
Stars: Jonathan Gordon, Jason Ralph, Haaz Sleiman
Synopsis: On Manhattan's gilded Upper East Side, a young gay painter is torn between an obsession with his infamous socialite best friend and a promising new romance with an older foreign concert pianist.
   Those People is also unusual for a gay-themed film in looking absolutely gorgeous. Huge amounts of time and effort have been put into the lighting and cinematography, creating some truly striking shots and a vision that is elegant, classy and helps ensure the film seems bigger and fuller than it might otherwise have been.
  What’s impressive is how relatable Those People is and how transparent its characters are. Gay or straight, it’s impossible to watch and not feel connected to anyone involved in Charlie’s journey. There are moments in the film that are sad and there are moments that are teachable. Most of all its Charlie’s journey of self discovery that makes Those People a delightful story for everyone.
  Those People” introduces us to characters who may have everything on the outside, but cautions us to not over-ripen the bruises we have nursed on the inside.