I remember when I was younger, I would watch ‘gay films’ which usually featured a character either dying of AIDS or facing discrimination. They were ‘issue films,’ about homosexuality as an ‘issue’. I remember longing for films which featured gay main characters just getting on with their lives, living, loving, working, where their gayness was a facet of their character, not a driving factor of the plot.
Now, quite a few such films have come along. One great one, 2011’s Weekend, is a charming and utterly moving portrait of a brief relationship between two men where ‘homosexuality’ as an issue isn’t really, well, an issue. The dynamic between the two men is different than it would be between a man and woman, of course, but that’s not the same thing.
But now that we’ve achieved gay films that aren’t ‘films about gay,’ there’s space for something still more nuanced. Which brings me to Cafe Con Leite (Coffee with Milk, oddly dubbed ‘You, Me and Him’ for English markets), aI short Portugese film by Daniel Ribeiro. In it, a gay couple struggles to adjust to the death of one member’s father and with it, the sudden appearance on their doorstep of his little brother.
Homosexuality isn’t really much of an issue in this film, but it is deeply seated in gay experience. The bereaved man’s partner responds to the brother’s appearance very differently to how a female partner probably would; the dynamics are totally different. It’s a fascinating little film.
For real gay men, our lives aren’t defined by homosexuality as an issue. But it’s also not true that we live lives like everyone else, except with same-sex partners. The truth is in some fuzzy area inbetween; being gay changes the dynamics of friendships, of families, of life.
Similarly, in between the two extremes of ‘films about homosexuality’ and ‘films where the characters happen to be gay,’ there’s a broad, rich world of stories to explore. This charming, SFW film is a perfectly good place to start.