Brian (Brian Sheppard) is a lovelorn poet with a case of writer’s block. Jim (the super hot, pink pouty-lipped Zack Ryan) tries to end a seemingly disadvantageous relationship with his boyfriend Drew (Colman Domingo). Bob (John Lescault) is a rich older gentleman looking for something – but with no idea what.
The four them interconnect in different ways and to varying degrees in the 2015 film Beautiful Something — recently screened at the BFI Flare LGBT Film Festival in London.
The action starts off with Brian, who heads out to a bar, meets a cute guy named Chris (David Melissaratos) — who has a girlfriend but occasionally yearns for guy-on-guy action. The two head back to Brian’s nearby apartment to hookup (in the first of the film’s three rough and grunty sex scenes). When they’re finished, a guilty Chris leaves despite Brian’s pleas for him to stay.
Drew is a sculptor who has been working on a piece for several months. Feeling neglected, Jim tries to leave but the domineering Drew seduces him, fucks him hard (the film’s second rough and grunty sex scene) and goes back to his work – leaving Jim used and spent. The look on Drew’s face after pulling out of Jim gives off the impression that Drew uses his sex to keep Jim around. Jim and Drew’s relationship is rare and possibly unprecedented in gay cinema (and probably cinema as a whole) in that it involves an older black man and a younger white man.
An inebriated, sleep-deprived Brian shows up at the home of Dan (the handsome Grant Lancaster) a former lover he still pines for. Brian asks the question we all want to ask such a person, but rarely get the answer to – “why did you stop wanting me?” The answer is simple in that Dan simply found a girl that he loves – despite his history with Brian that he holds dear and the love for Brian that he still has. So naturally, Brian makes a move on Dan – who immediately throws him out (though for a moment we’re not sure which way this turn of events is going to go).
Shortly thereafter, Brian and Jim cross paths on the street and Brian follows Jim back to his place – where he has a fight with Drew, announces he is moving to New York and, in the last of the film’s rough and grunty sex scenes, fucks Brian against a support beam in the basement for what could be a welcome change-of-pace for Jim and a way of getting back at Drew. Jim takes his leave of Brian – who is clearly just looking for a connection but is going about it the wrong way, isn’t as willing to let things end as Jim would like. A drunken Bob appears next to Jim outside a bar — where he was finally able to shake himself loose from the somewhat clingy Brian. Bob invites Jim into his limo, takes him to dinner and propositions him (though for another moment we’re not sure which way this turn of events is going to go).
But back at Bob’s house, Jim dances shirtless for him while a winded Bob watches. Bob figures out that Jim is hardly as straight as he had led Bob to believe and Jim shares his heart for Drew. In the meantime, a drunken Drew is sitting outside what we assume is his and Jim’s bedroom sharing his own heart for Jim with Jim – who he thinks is in there listening. Back at Bob’s house – in one of the film’s best scenes, Bob shares his own heart for a long-lost love named Mike who died in Vietnam. He then gives Jim some advice about Drew and passes out.
The film ends with a clear, satisfying, almost perfect ending (though I don’t know what would have made the ending more perfect than it was) that is neither contrived for the sake of a happy one nor a cop-out from a more logical one. The events of the evening inspire a flurry of poetry out of Brian and Jim’s absence inspires artwork out of Drew — which Jim sees upon returning to a sleeping Drew the next morning and climbing into bed with him.
In the last scene, Brian steps out into the morning air for a poetry break. Sergio, who had approached Brian the previous night while he was waiting outside of Jim and Drew’s apartment, re-appears and approaches him again. Brian wants to him invite Sergio in since he had rebuffed him earlier despite being clearly interested him, but he only wants to talk – which Sergio is more than happy to do on the condition that he gets to hold Brian while they do.
Beautiful Something is a beautiful film about connection, how we go about it and how we sometimes miss out on it for any number of reasons. In real-life, we don’t always get the second chance at it that Brian, Sergio, Jim and Drew got, but the beauty of films of like this (and the groan-inducement of films less well-done) is in the second-hand satisfaction we get from seeing it happen for the characters we spent 90 minutes investing in.
Beautiful Something is worth that investment – and a welcome addition to the canon of gay independent cinema. Kudos to writer/director Joseph Graham.