One film that I have seen receive a lot of praise at this year’s BFI Flare Festival is Daniel Sanchez Lopez’s directorial feature debut Boy Meets Boy. With the script written by Sanchez Lopez and Hannah Renton, the film follows British junior doctor, Harry (Matthew James Morrison) who is on a weekend trip in Berlin and has a chance encounter in a nightclub with local guy, Johannes (Alexis Koutsoulis) where the two kiss and then spend the following day exploring the city before Harry goes home. The film takes place over the course of this day and we learn about the protagonists through their many conversations. It’s a film rich in characterisation while also touching on the LGBT+ experience in the modern.
Despite the limited locations, Sanchez Lopez manages to make the protagonists’ journey feel longer and wider thanks to the beautiful direction. Making the most of the Berlin city setting, we follow the characters through the city as Johannes shows Harry around without going to any touristy places. The glorious summery weather adds that extra excitement and adventure as Harry laments his future when he goes back home to the UK. As the film is character led, it’s important that the script is tight and engaging to ensure that audience attention doesn’t slip. What Sanchez Lopez and Renton do really well is keep an ongoing dialogue between the two that shifts and changes in topic and tone. Whether they are engaged in conversations on religion, their experiences as gay men or what they want for their future, we really see how their own outlook and perspective mesh and clash as dynamics can quickly shift. This constant shifting of dynamics make the conversations flow naturally while also reminding the audience that they are complete strangers with differing backgrounds.
Matthew James Morrison does a great job at showcasing junior doctor Harry’s inner conflict as he struggles figuring out what he wants to do with his life. Wanting to dedicate his life to helping others, Harry is an individual who at first seems assertive and confident in who he is but his journey through the film is all about self exploration into his career and lifestyle. The scene in which the characters are conversing with Mormons, Harry seems genuinely interested to learn about why they would choose to openly follow a religion in an age where young people are not engaging with religions as much. Whether he has his own inner religious conflict is unknown, but he is a character who is unsure about his future and his place in the world. His intelligence stems from his scientific background and he approaches all conversations with a logical frame of mind.
In contrast to Harry’s scientific and more traditional background, Johannes is an aspiring dancer who is inspired by all kinds of movements. Alexis Koutsoulis brings a thoughtful performance as Johannes, who has a developed sense of the world and his place in it. However, his conflict comes in his approach to relationships. Having found himself in a relationship in which his partner wants to see other people, Johannes finds it difficult to connect with people on an emotional level because he is unable to live up to what he thinks is expected on him. On the surface, Johannes is carefree and expressive but that pain and inability to connect makes him quite lonely. Koutsoulis’ performance is beautifully layered and his part in the film acting as a guide allows the audience to see into this world as it is Berlin through his eyes.
Overall, Boy Meets Boy is a poignant film that follows the day in the life of a chance encounter. The developing relationship between the characters is one that a lot of people will relate to as they discuss an array of issues. A fantastic debut from Daniel Sanchez Lopez who has done well in creating two established characters in a very short running time. Although the encounter between the characters is brief, it feels like a lifetime of conversations thanks to the script which allows us to really gain the protagonists’ perspective on life both positive and negative.
Boy Meets Boy is streaming at this year’s BFI Flare Festival