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    A Quartet of LGBTQ Films to See This Month

    By Gary M. Kramer–

    While the studios are putting out their Oscar bait this holiday season, there are a number of small, worthwhile LBGTQ films that may not be on everyone’s radar this December. Here are four films to seek out on streaming platforms this month.

    Silent Night (December 3)may be set at Christmas, but it is not exactly cheerful fare. Four couples—including lesbians Bella (Lucy Punch) and Alex (Kirby Howell-Baptiste)—gather together for the holiday to eat, drink, and be merry because tomorrow they are all going to die from a poison gas. The setup allows the friends, most of whom met at university, to reveal things about their love lives, and their regrets. They also tease each other, dance together, and puncture egos as tensions mount. The kids are also quite foul-mouthed—especially the anxious Art (Roman Griffin Davis, of Jojo Rabbit), whose parents Nell (Keira Knightley) and Simon (Matthew Goode) are hosting this last-night-on-Earth shindig. The film starts off with some amusing banter, but it gets more serious and emotional over time. One key subplot has Art not keen to take the pill, which leads to some dramatic and moral moments. Silent Night is well played by the entire cast, but Davis is the standout. 

    I am Syd Stone (December 7) is an engaging Canadian series—compiled into an 80-minute feature—about the title character (Travis Nelson), a closeted actor. Staying at a hotel while shooting a new movie, Syd is recognized by various fans until he meets Matt (Benjamin Charles Watson), a lawyer unaware of Syd’s celebrity. The two men start to hook up, but they are interrupted, which sends Syd into panic (and self-protection) mode. Should he follow his desires, if that will potentially cost him his career? When he and Matt meet up the next night to talk, they also have sex. Things get more complicated when Syd’s girlfriend Rachel (Daiva Johnston) surprises him with a visit the next morning. I am Syd Stone eventually addresses Syd’s decision to come out, which develops not just in his interactions with Rachel—he’s cagey towards her, which prompts her to suspect something—but also with Nathan (Kevin Kincaid), the father of a young boy who is costarring in the film Syd is making. These conversations, which take place over the various episodes, function as part of the five stages of grief that Syd experiences: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Travis Nelson makes Syd’s self-awareness and eventual decision credible (he takes lots of thoughtful showers), but as likable as this low-budget production is, there is still a sense that this coming out story has been told many times before.

    Also from Canada is Circus Boy (December 14), a terrific documentary about Thomas, a gay man in Peterborough, Canada, who with his husband Michael, adopts Ethan, a youth Thomas is training in circus arts. The film, which is under an hour in length, focuses on Thomas’ mother meeting Ethan—as well as Ethan’s birth mother—for the first time. There are heartfelt scenes of Thomas explaining his relationship with Ethan to his mom, as well as Ethan discussing his comfort with and benefit from the arrangement. Ethan’s mother also describes why Ethan’s biological father was not equipped to parent. What emerges is a thoughtful discussion of the relationships that parents have with their children—Thomas talks about his own issues with his father—as well as the importance of Thomas being a mentor and male role model to Ethan, his protégé. Circus Boy also features some hypnotic scenes of Ethan and Thomas on the Cyr Wheel, and it ends with a performance by father and son that beautifully illustrates their loving bond.

    The Novice, (December 17),portrays Alex (Isabelle Fuhrman), a queer college student who challenges herself by joining the rowing team despite having no previous experience. Far from being an inspirational sports drama, this intense film, written and directed by Lauren Hadaway, shows how Alex’s obsession for perfection consumes her, especially when she becomes a rival with her teammate Jamie Brill (Amy Forsyth). Fuhrman gives a committed performance as this case study in self-destruction shows how Alex sabotages everything and everyone around her, including her relationship with Dani (Dilone), a TA in one of her classes. Hadaway make The Novice stylish by getting inside Alex’s head and shooting the rowing scenes in different formats to illustrate their impact on her. It’s an accomplished debut for the director.

    © 2021 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 December 2, 2021