Summer in Berlin. Jonas is planning a trip through the little known area of the Uckermark in preparation for a photography project. He invites his best friend, Phillip, to come along. They haven''t met since the time they spent together in London. So they pack up their Mercedes camper and take off across uncharted territory, stopping whenever they see something they like, taking pictures and generally enjoying a laid-back road trip. The fact that Phillip is gay has never been an issue for either of them. When they pick up a hitchhiker named Boris, however, who shows Jonas some interesting spots and starts to make moves on Phillip, the friendship of the two starts to fray. Maybe three''s a crowd after all? By the end of the summer, things between Jonas and Phillip won''t ever be the same again.
Sort of gay road trip with a fair bit of nudity
6 May 2016 | by Tom Dooley (London,United Kingdom)
The synopsis of this short indie film is that Jonas, who is German and straight, has invited his British and gay mate Philip for a camping trip. This is ostensibly so Jonas can carry out a photography project. They head off in an old VW camper and Phil sort of finds any excuse to get his kit off.
Then they run into Boris who is a friend of Jonas'' and he tags along. At first the chemistry of all three is thrown out by the new arrival but then Phil and Boris start to get along a bit too well and all bets are off.
Now as I said this is a fairly short film at 79 minutes and a lot of that time not very much happens, but that may be the point. It could be seen as a slow build up I suppose but it does not translate very well. There is some chemistry but it takes a while to rear its head. And despite a lot of nude bits being shown there is no real bedroom action either. In German and English too with good sub titles; this is a film for those who like their stories to be fairly simple and take their time getting there. I am still in two minds as to whether I really liked it so am giving the benefit of the doubt. However, this is one of those films I would not want to watch twice – so maybe try a rental option.
MQFF REVIEW: You & I (2014, Dir. Nils Bökamp)
This whole post-gay thing is super confusing. What do we do now that being gay isn’t the be all and end all? What do we do now that we are allowed to have straight male friends and be affectionate with them? What’s more, where is all the angsty queer drama going to come from? Take this case study: good-looking German feature You & I.
The “I” here is hot German photographer, Jonas (Eric Klotzsch); sexuality straight.
The “You” is hotter English, German-speaking, laughter loving, nudity preferring, ex-housemate, Philip (George Taylor); sexuality gay.
The two reunite in Jonas’ Mercedes campervan for a leisurely road trip through the rolling hills of the Uckermark. Sounds like every second queer film, no? Throw it in between Harvest (MQFF 2012) and Summer Storm (MQFF 2005); it’s even got the obligatory shirtless pontoon sunbathing scene.
There is one small issue though. Sexual tension: nil. Dramatic tension: nil. Turns out well-adjusted cross-sexuality friendships don’t make for edge of your seat cinema. Yet, You & I isn’t so easily dismissed. The film’s first act may be a little limp but director Nils Bökamp imbues the young men’s reconnection with enough energy to maintain attention.
Klotzsch and Taylor give engaging performances, cut through with the kind of faux-vérité freshness that warrants the low-key narrative flow. Taylor’s smile has a cheekiness reminiscent of Michael Fassbender, and Bökamp’s laissez faire direction gives him space to flash it openly and often.
And that’s not all that’s flashed; the nudity counter is off the chart – they’re super comfortable with each other, y’know.
All this, and it has to be said, the luscious scenery is extremely well treated by cinematographer, Alexander Fuchs. The point being, You & I is far from a difficult watch.
Then… enter Boris (Michal Grabowski)… we’ll call him the “&”. Hot, Polish, straggly haired, backpackerly, homophobic; sexuality unlabelled. He brings the tension with him, dramatic and sexual.
Bökamp’s approach to the material remains impressionistic but the insertion of Boris’ bristling Eastern European values brings a spark that sets the slow burn to a smoulder. It turns out just a hint of traditional pre-post-gay angst is enough to tip this new frontier bro-triangle into strangely endearing territory. Endearing, affecting and gently pulsing with erratic chemistry.
You & I may be a gear change for some but will reward those willing to take it down a notch and embrace its ambiguity. It’s a film riding the zeitgeist (it’s German, it fits) and may well provide some invaluable pointers in this brave new world of gay straight relations: Turn your bromance into romance… or something like that.
- Michael Scott