“They say that gay men choose their own families; that’s never more evident than during the holidays.”
So begins the sweet and enjoyable Shared Rooms by writer/director/producer Rob Williams (“Make the Yuletide Gay”) – which interweaves three stories that take place around the holidays and wraps them up into a nice neat bow of love and positivity at the end.
Laslo and Cal (Christopher Grant Pearson and Alec Manley Wilson) are a married couple with no desire to have children – until Cal’s newly-out teenaged nephew Zeke (Ryan Weldon) shows up at their front door after having been kicked out of his parent’s house.
Gray and Sid (Alexander Neil Miller and Justin Xavier) get together for a Christmas Day hookup – only to wind up finding a much deeper connection to each other.
Dylan and Julian (Robert Werner and Daniel Lipshutz) are roommates. With Dylan out of town for the holidays, Julian rents out his room to a guy named Frank (David Vaughn). But when Dylan unexpectedly returns early, he and Julian now have to share a bed.
I had previously viewed Shared Rooms earlier this year for an interview with Williams about the film. The cynic in me thought it was all too neat and coincidental. But upon a second viewing of this film for this opinion piece, I’ve come to appreciate the neatness and coincidence. We’ve come to expect such intense plotting and ambiguous endings (which is different than simply leaving us wanting more and/or leaving the door open to a continuation) from our films that three simple stories with a clear-cut ending might be seen as thin or lacking.
But that isn’t the case here.
These three simple stories are each an interesting reflection of the gay community in a few of its many different aspects. Laslo and Cal, despite not really having a choice and acknowledging that, represent those stable gays I still hope exist who can serve as an open arm for kids escaping a repressive home life in other parts of the country – even if temporarily. Gray and Sid show us that a mere hookup doesn’t just have to be a mere hookup if we’re open to actually connecting with people on more than just a cursory or physical level. And Dylan and Julian – in the most situationally comedic of the three stories, show us that love is sometimes right across the hall if we just open the door (or, in this case, if the door is opened by the antics of an enterprising roommate).
The recurrent theme of Shared Rooms is family – the one you’re given (Zeke and his unseen mother) and the one you’ve chosen (everyone else). But in the New Year’s Eve party scene at the end, Williams takes the latter one step further to show us HOW these chosen families are formed by chance and expanded by a willingness to welcome others into it. Cal and Sid became friends from AA. Julian became friends with Laslo and Cal as their accountant. And even the “outsiders” Frank and Gray, who have their own surprising connection, are brought into this family fold.
Be they a nephew, a hookup or a renter, it all comes down to letting people who enter your life into your life. And Williams exemplifies that perfectly in his Shared Rooms.
Read our interview with Rob Williams