(2019, 79 min)
Director: Thales Correa
Studio: Breaking Glass Pictures
Brazilian transplant Leo embarks on a trip to San Fransisco when he finds out his regular American fling Totah is also visiting the city. Upon arrival Leo joins his friend Donnie on a quest through the clubs of the Castro district, hoping to a casual encounter to show Totah they could be compatible beyond the bedroom. Meanwhile Donnie's straight friend Hunter, a hopeless romantic, tags along in an attempt to teach Leo how to turn a casual sex relationship into a more meaningful one. While bar hopping, following clues, and adventures into seedier venues, they face unforeseen obstacles that challenge the way they approach relationships in the modern day, and may even end up putting their own friendship at risk.
Life, love, romance, sex. These are things that we seek and sometimes find us even when we're not looking for them, yet we go out chasing them particularly when we are single, hanging out in bars, clubs and at parties. A lot can happen in the course of an evening.
Leo (Correa) is a Brazilian ex-pat living in Los Angeles who has been maintaining an online relationship with a man in San Francisco. His friends Donnie (Palazzini) and Hunter (Mansky) urge Leo to come up to the City by the Bay to find the object of his affection so that he can at last take the relationship into the real world. The trouble is, he's not really sure where to find him. No problem, though: everyone in the gay community in the Bay Area knows where the action is - in the Castro district.
The three men couldn't be more different; Leo is affable, easy-going who isn't looking for a quick hook-up but rather for something meaningful and long-term. Donnie is all about the moment and if the moment includes sex, so much the better. Hunter is bi-sexual but has found love with a woman who's a nurse and insists loudly to everyone - particularly Donnie who obviously has the hots for him - that he's straight now, although his protestations ring hollow.
Over the course of the night the three men will find sex without really trying too hard; finding love is a much more difficult proposition and all the bathroom stall and parking lot encounters in the world aren't necessarily going to help them find it. Leo gets all sorts of advice about how to snare the man of his dreams - most of it bad - but he doesn't give up on his dream, even if it seems more out of reach than ever.
In many ways, this is about love in the age of Grinder. Correa - who directed this and co-wrote it with Palazzini - has an immense amount of screen presence. Facially, he resembles a cross between Edward Norton and John Cusack and comes across as extremely likable. Part of the film's dramatic tension stems from Leo's growth as he realizes that Donnie's hedonism and general lack of responsibility is not the life he wants to pursue anymore. Leo's growth during the course of the night is the crux of the movie and Correa pulls it off nicely. He has to my mind the potential to become a mainstream star if he chooses to go that route.
Correa makes wonderful use of the Castro which as an ex-Bay Area resident I can tell you is one of the more dynamic and beautiful neighborhoods in the City which is chock full of them. There's also the historic element to it; the Castro is at least as culturally significant to the LGBTQ+ movement as the Stonewall neighborhood; it was where Harvey Milk had his business and eventually represented on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. It was also one of the first openly gay-friendly neighborhoods in the entire country. Although the historic element isn't emphasized in the movie which tends to stay in the nightclubs and bars of the district, it's good to see that it gets its due as an epicenter to American gay life.
Cinematographer Cassie Hunter makes good use of the natural lighting in the outdoor scenes as well as the neon and colored lights of the bars, discos and clubs of the Castro. Russian DJ Same-K provides the pulsating electronic score.
If I have a complaint about the movie, it does move fairly slowly even given its short run time of 80 minutes. It does look at the romantic expectations of not just young gay men, although they are certainly at the forefront here; the themes are indeed universal, as we all sooner or later grow out of the lust-driven encounters of our youth and begin looking for something more. While this isn't the apex of LGBTQ+ cinema, it does serve as a reminder to me that there are an awful lot of really good movies with gay themes that give us a different point of view that all of us can use to find insight into the same questions we all face as we try to muddle our way through life.
-- Review by Carlos, This is Cinema365 (https://carlosdev.wordpress.com/this-is-cinema365/)