With Blue Briefs, Guest House Films continues the intriguing series of similarly themed gay short films that began earlier in 2012 with their Black Briefs set. Where that earlier disc explored the sinister side of gay life with generally fair-to-middling results, these "6 gay shorts about the pain of love" deliver a more consistent, heartfelt feel with a slate of well-made shorts that deal with unrequited love, coming out, jealousy and growing up gay. Like any collection of this ilk, you wind up with a few that fall short dramatically or contain clunky performances. The best of them, however, serve as a good showcase up-and-coming directors and screenwriters with plots that have a universal appeal. In other words, one doesn't necessarily have to be a gay man to enjoy them.
The six short films presented on Blue Briefs are as follows:
Requited (2011; 20 minutes)
Requited, a dreamily shot drama from director-screenwriter Sal Bardo, concerns a young man in his '20s named Nicolas (Christopher Schram) who receives a wedding invitation from a straight former classmate whom he secretly loved. The invite arouses conflicting emotions in Nicolas, who is now settled in a comfortable relationship with his boyfriend, Gregor (Max Rhyser). This film dwells on the "why pine for something you can never have" dilemma in an interesting way with several slice-of-life vignettes that lead up to Nicolas' confrontation with his ex-friend Aaron (Matthew Walston). Although Schram gives the character of Nicolas a good, nuanced portrayal, the one actor who really shined was Crystal Arnett as Nicolas and Gregor's straight gal-pal. Requited strikes the right balance between funny and touching.
Boys Like You (2011; 12 minutes)
Boys Like You continues the "crushing on a straight dude" theme with the story of gay photography student Sal (Daniel Armando, who also directed), who doesn't know what to make of his jocular, homo-friendly roommate Jimmy (Stephen Lundberg). Sal finds Jimmy charming and attractive, but their chaste and easygoing relationship develops a wrinkle when Jimmy invites a woman he met at a bar (Tanya Everett) to have a three-way with him and Sal. The story winds up unspooling in a vaguely unsatisfying manner, but like Requited this film benefits from understated performances and a casual, warmly inviting feel. There is a bit of eroticism with this short, too; surprising since much of Blue Briefs deals with heat of the emotional - not physical - kind.
We Once Were Tide (2011; 18 minutes)
An atmospheric piece shot on the windswept Isle Of Wight, We Once Were Tide deals with a young gay couple, one of whom is caring for his invalid mother in the tiny home they share. While Anthony (Alexander Scott) and Kyle (Tristan Bernays) share a discreet yet passionate bond, Anthony's duties towards his mother and Kyle's ambition ultimately take a toll on their relationship. Beautifully shot and performed in a touching, understated manner, We Once Were Tide feels like a snapshot from a larger, ongoing picture. The overcast, grassy cliff tops overlooking the ocean certainly help establish a mood. Heartfelt performances and committed direction by Jason Bradbury make this the most successful piece on Blue Briefs.
Revolution (2010; 16 minutes)
Set in 1989 Los Angeles, director-screenwriter Abdi Nazemian's Revolution follows an upper-middle class family of expat Iranian-Americans they adjust to life in the U.S. The film primarily focuses on the family's teen son, Jack (Mojean Aria), as he comes to terms with his gayness with a conservative father (David Diaan) and a supportive but distant mother (Lisa Goodman). The unspoken tenseness in the family becomes more evident with the arrival of Jack's new live-in nanny (Busy Philipps) and her openly gay son (Zach Cumer), who takes a liking to Jack. Although the film makes a huge leap in comparing the '80s ACT-UP demonstrations with the 1979 Iranian revolution, the scenes with the two teens are refreshingly real and sweet. Good acting all around makes this one of the more memorable offerings on this disc.
The In-Between (2010; 10 minutes)
A pair of well-bred New Yorkers narrate their own story as fragmentary glimpses from their lives unspool in this unique short. Jared (Danny Bernardy) is relieved to find a stable, loving man in Robert (Brian Patacca), but as soon as they move in together a series of red flags make Jared doubt Robert's fidelity to him. Are Jared's abs not ripped enough for him, and why is Robert spending so much time on those sleazy hookup websites? An interesting exercise which uses apparently real narration paired up with enacted footage that verges on the too-slick, the yuppie lifestyles depicted in this short make it more difficult to relate to, but at least it's lively and watchable.
Frozen Roads (2010; 17 minutes)
The subject of gay teens in rural communities gets a sympathetic handling in Frozen Roads, which chronicles three friends in a small Canadian town. While Christian (Kyle Mac) find shelter from the oppressive bullies at school with his outgoing sister Lyla (Carlyn Burchell), being an only child in a devoutly religious household make things more difficult, coming out-wise, for Christian's moody friend, Balthazar (Kevin DeCarli). A local party provides a good opportunity for Christian to express his true feelings for Balthazar, but will he accept? Although the direction on this short is clumsy at times, it is a nicely performed and understated little drama with fully realized central characters.
Guest House Films' Blue Briefs DVD comes in a standard keep case with a paper insert that lists synopses, credits, awards, and running times for all six films (in addition to ads for other Guest House discs).
Generally good: all of the shorts are in 16x9 anamorphic widescreen, with We Once Were Tide given a letterboxed widescreen treatment. Although Frozen Roads sports a bit of blur, the picture quality on the other films is agreeable, well-balanced and clear.
The stereo soundtrack on all of these films is generally fine, with no outstanding examples of bad mixing or unclear dialogue. No subtitles or alternate audio options on this disc.
Trailers for Guest House's Black Briefs and the indie drama Role/Play count as the disc's sole bonus content (where are the blue briefs they promised?).
Unlike the Guest House Films' earlier hit-or-miss Black Briefs DVD, Blue Briefs' six shorts of gay male love lost, yearned for, or just starting out have an earnest emotional resonance that make it a much more compelling, consistent set. The more universal appeal of the stories explored here also make it a better bet. Recommended.
Matt Hinrichs is a designer, artist, film critic and dilettante-of-all-trades in Phoenix, Arizona. 4 Color Cowboy is his repository of Western-kitsch imagery, while other films he's seen are logged at Letterboxd. He also welcomes friends on Twitter @4colorcowboy.