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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

'You and I' DVD: Three's Not Always Company

The September 2016 DVD release of the 2014 drama "You and I" is a recent example of Breaking Glass Pictures getting it right regarding a relatively new focus on art-house gay-themed films. One thing that makes this tale of an interloper tagging along on a summer adventure between two close friends is that it introduces universal "third wheel" elements.

Writer/director Nils Bokamp starts things off right by opening "You" with 20-something professional photographer Jonas going about his business in his Berlin apartment while listening to a lengthy answering machine message in which his now-former girlfriend explains why she is leaving him. This alone provides a strong indication that Jonas will be having sex with another man before the final credits roll.

The action then moves to perfectly attractive Jonas and his very handsome and energetic British friend Philip meeting at the airport ahead of an extended vacation/photographic expedition throughout rural Germany. The primary agenda is to wander about and visit sites that catch their eye.

An early conversation in which Philip, whose sexual orientation is not yet addressed, learns of the recent breakup of his friend and is cagey when asked about his own relationships is the second indication that the audience is in for a variation of "Brokeback Mountain."

The early part of the trip goes swimmingly (pun intended) with good joking around and a very gleeful skinny dipping Philip running naked around the campsite trying to persuade a fully dressed Jonas to join the fun. The only drama at this point consists of Philip sharing that his wealthy father is pressuring him to join the family business. Jonas offering the solution of Philip moving into his Berlin apartment provides the next indication of things to come.

The drama escalates on our boys meeting the aforementioned intruder. Boris is a friendly shaggy-haired Polish hitchhiker whose knowledge of the area, including an abandoned Nazi hunting retreat, buys him admission to the group. The not-so-subtle response by Philip shows that the new kid on the block is not a welcome addition.

The three boys soon develop a more congenial co-existence that the confirmation that Philip is gay affects in unusual ways. Boris literally expressing outrage at a naked Philip jumping on him one minute and VERY passively aggressively stripping down the next sends clear signals regarding the conflicted nature of his own sexuality. Subsequent only slightly less clumsy efforts at seduction are more entertaining.

The developments in the Philip/Boris relationship predictably requires that Jonas, whose history with Philip is never fully revealed, deal with his feelings regarding his friend. This presents the tricky issue that good quality gay-themed films handle well. Namely, the extent to which a male friendship in which at least one man is quite far on the gay end of the Kinsey scale of sexuality can or should involve physical intimacy.

Films of the caliber of "You" and lesser ones that are more likely to end up airing on the basic-cable gay-oriented network Logo often have one guy crossing the line only to get thrown to the ground and find himself with a broken heart. On a deeper level, a man whose sexuality falls near the middle of the Kinsey scale may desire physical intimacy with a good buddy but may not be prepared for the emotional consequences or be ready to enter an open relationship with him.

On a more universal level, Bokamp provides insightful and sensitive commentary on any circumstance in which a friend obliviously welcomes a newcomer into an arguably intimate setting. "You" further demonstrates that the fact that bros are expected to be cool regarding such things can complicate matters. Throwing in the element of Philip and Jonas trying to fine tune what they want to be when they grow up makes the film even more compelling.

The DVD special feature consists of a new interview with Bokamp.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "You" is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.