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    Out Filmmaker’s Feature Debut Almost Love Looks at Gay and Straight Relationships

    Gary M. Kramer

    By Gary Kramer–

    Written and directed by actor-turned-filmmaker Mike Doyle, Almost Love, available on demand, is an affable romantic comedy-drama about a handful of neurotic New Yorkers. Adam (out actor Scott Evans) is five years into his relationship with internet influencer Marklin (out actor Augustus Prew). The couple have not tied the knot, however, because of an issue that comes to a head in their relationship. (They are also in “couples,” as in therapy.)

    Meanwhile, their supportive friends are dealing with equally fraught relationships. Cammy (Michelle Buteau) is having a relationship with Henry (Colin Donnell), who has a terrible secret; Haley (Zoe Chao) is tutoring a 17-year-old student (Christopher Gray), who is in love with her; and Elizabeth’s (Kate Walsh) marriage may be on the skids.
    Doyle chatted with me for the San Francisco Bay Times about his debut feature film, the nature of relationships, and why queer cinema is important.

    Gary M. Kramer: Almost Love depicts several codependent characters and relationships. What inspired you to address these themes in the way that you did?

    Mike Doyle: I wasn’t looking to address codependence head on, but it’s in the fabric of many relationships. What I was attempting to do was create a patchwork of relationships—four iterations—and hit them at different points, but at a point where each couple found themselves stuck. Codependence can be why we get stuck; we lose sight of ourselves and are not the “best” us in the relationship. That’s part of the landscape. There is a fine line between mutual inter-dependence and codependence. I wanted to show in the backstory—it wasn’t imbalance, but something ever-shifting. With Adam and Marklin’s relationship, we get a peek into their history, and it wasn’t always as we see it in the present day. For me, that was an important thing to look at—especially in relationships with two men, who are socialized to be leaders, and stronger. Sometimes we are in sync emotionally and financially, and sometimes we are sine and cosine.

    Gary M. Kramer: Your film is also about communication and connection. What are your observations about how people in general, and gay men in particular, interact?

    Mike Doyle: In any relationship, we have secrets—things we show, and things we hide. I made the choice not to have something like an affair for these characters. I wanted the secret to be more insidious—honesty. We have these devices in our pockets and in our hands that can receive and send things that might not be healthy for a relationship. Rather than make that the catalyst, I wanted to give hints of that. One character received a text message that leads down a path, but it’s flipped, and not what you think.

    Gary M. Kramer: The characters often talk about “wanting more” or being stuck in a life they didn’t imagine. What sparked you to write and direct—are you looking for a life pivot, or to forge a new career path?

    Mike Doyle: I’ve been writing and directing for a while, but I’ve been trying to get a feature up, and I was writing things that were a bit more ambitious. At the beginning of 2016, I thought I needed to harken back to my cinematic heroes and my relationships among my friends in New York. I wanted to create a world that was practical and doable to make this movie. It’s not so much a career pivot, but an expansion of my work on TV shows in New York. I have a desire to express myself creatively that lies outside the bounds of acting. I am a Virgo who is restless and needs to stay busy. So, filmmaking is the continuation of something I started several years ago. But on a much bigger scale.

    Gary M. Kramer: What can you say about making a film with realistic queer characters and being an out queer filmmaker?

    Mike Doyle: I made a conscious effort to portray these gay characters. I didn’t want to stare down old tropes. They’ve come out, battled their diversity, and are in a relationship like everyone else. I was trying to push the notion of gay cinema ahead a bit. Hopefully people will respond.

    I can’t imagine myself living without being truthful about the most fundamental aspect of my being but it’s not the only aspect of my life. I wish I could say it doesn’t matter anymore whether you’re gay or straight—and for me it doesn’t—but we’re in a moment where I made a conscious decision to hire two out gay actors for romantic leads. Meanwhile, straight movie stars are still being applauded for their bravery [playing gay] in Hollywood films. © 2020 Gary M. Kramer

    Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer

    Published on April 9, 2020