After a particularly sensuous title shot ー quite simply, a smoking cigar ー this film opens rather frivolously. We pan over New York City, watching our characters go about their daily lives in a classically retro scene-setting montage. But don’t let this cheery start fool you. As catty bitchiness descends into destructive hate, ancient and fresh wounds alike are torn open, exposed to the audience. Further still, dripping in internalised homophobia, our cast of bitter gay men pour in the salt..
As queer people ー specifically, gay men ー we are used to relationships not lasting forever. People get scared ー of their own romantic and sexual impulses, of how they feel about their identity ー and they run away. Encounters are often hidden: we meet at night, in dark corners, away from prying eyes. Sometimes the light of day eclipses what went on in the dark, and we are left wondering if our desperate minds fabricated the whole thing. And then the night begins again, and he comes back, and we know that, even if just for tonight, it’s real.
In 2020, it’s hard to believe that a film about a gay and a lesbian being each other’s beards (pretending to date each other so people think they’re straight) hadn’t been made. I suppose there was that one storyline on Glee… but still, here it is, finally, in full cinematic force. Of course, the main question is: does it live up to the hype? And the answer, of course, is complicated. Dating Amber (David Freyne, 2020) is a coming-of-age comedy set in oppressive 1990s Ireland. The story follows baby gay Eddie (Fionn O’Shea) and baby lesbian Amber (Lola Petticrew), and their developing friendship as they pursue a pretend relationship. [...]
Coming into this, I think I was promised something like But I’m a Cheerleader: The Musical, in Spanish. What I got was, if you can believe this, so much more and so much wilder than that. My thoughts throughout were, to quote lovely fifth alternate Alyssa Edwards, 'what the fuck is going on in here on this day?' Avoiding any major spoilers, I will try to explain ー though I’m not sure to what extent that will be possible.
If the success of Fleabag is anything to go by, Andrew Scott playing sexy Irish anything is guaranteed to be a hit. Before he was a sexy Irish priest in that hit TV show (that’s hit TV show, Nina), he was a sexy, Irish and even on-the-cusp-of-homoerotic teacher in Handsome Devil. Top Tip: Try not to get distracted by Andrew Scott’s beauty. Or his seductive Irish accent. Or his brooding eyes. What were we talking about?
Two minutes in and it's already an assault on the senses: from scribbled scrapbookish title sequences, to waivering cameras, via both voiceovers and on-screen dialogue. Sis, it's a lot. We get the film's eponymous best friends: gay boy Ely and straight girl Naomi (a classic combo, let's be real). A supposed central plot point is introduced: their 'no kiss list': a collection of boys they both fancy and are thus off limits' And there begins a visual introduction to the world we'll be living in for the next hour and a half: two perfectly quirky (and conveniently adjacent) young adult bedrooms in the heart of an idealised and colourful New York City. Okay, yes, it's a lot for eyes and ears to deal with, but at least we can say for certain that the scene is set. [...]