Queer romance steams up the screen with open eroticism
“Broken Sky” is an epic queer romance, a highly stylized masterpiece, and one of the sexiest films of the year. Directed by Julián Hernández, who helmed the luminous “1,000 Clouds of Peace” a few years back, this drama of longing and loss concerns two university students, Gerardo (Miguel Ângel Hoppe) and Jonás (Fernando Arroyo), whose relationship ends when Jonás falls in love with another boy.
Hernández tells this simple tale complexly. There’s almost no dialogue between the main characters over the course of the film’s 140 minute running time. While this may be difficult for some viewers to absorb, for others, it will be exhilarating.
Hernández opens “Broken Sky” with a quote from Marguerite Duras’ screenplay from “Hiroshima, Mon Amour” that begins, “And a time will come. When we’ll no more know what thing it is that binds us.” This epigraph sets the tone for the film, which unfolds slowly, interrupted periodically by an unseen narrator (Ortos Suyez) who comments on the characters and their relationships. These interludes provide a needed continuity in a film full of scenes depicting memories, fantasies, or flashbacks.
Hernández cleverly uses music to underscore the emotions and the actions of the characters. When a singer on the radio advises, “Give him your heart,” Gerardo gives heed to the lyrics, and so, too, will audiences as they come to know and care about these characters and the fate of their relationship.
In the opening sequence, Gerardo and Jonás meet on campus and retire to a bedroom for a lengthy bout of erotic lovemaking. The affection these two beautiful young men share is palpable in every glance, every caress.
Yet after thirty minutes of sex, kissing in public, and playing hide and seek in the library, they go to a nightclub where Jonás meets and kisses a cute boy while Gerardo sits out a dance. Suddenly, the unbreakable love between Gerardo and Jonás has been torn asunder; the sky has fallen. Where once there were public displays of affection, now there is avoidance. Where there was embracing, there is rejection; and where there was love, now there is none.
“Broken Sky” captures the pain of the relationship as brilliantly as it does the passion—“the oblivion of love” and “the horror of that oblivion,” Hernández calls it, appropriately enough. The film then follows Gerardo chasing the uninterested Jonás—in an effort to recapture their relationship—as the impact of their break-up resonates. As Gerardo tries to shake Jonás from his system, he succumbs to the charms of Sergio (Alejandro Rojo), a man who had been interested in Gerardo from early on. As this rebound relationship unfolds, “Broken Sky” builds to its shattering end.
A tense drama about the emotions involved in a relationship, “Broken Sky” is slow-going, nevertheless, and tedium can set in at times; but most of the wordless action is riveting. In particular, an encounter between Jonás and Sergio in a men’s room is freighted with jealousy, and there are a series of scenes of the boys bluntly having hot sex that will leave audiences wordless themselves.
Hernández’ camera is employed to especially fine use, with breathtaking tracking shots, or sequences in which he circles the actors in an embrace. The masterful direction and cinematography elevate this art film to the level of extraordinary.
The performances by the leads are also superlative. Often using just their eyes to convey tremendous emotions, both Hoppe and Arroyo are superb, and quite fearless during their extensive sex and nude scenes. Hoppe is astonishing; a heartbreaking moment in which he is comforted by his mother without saying a single word is evidence of his remarkable talent. Arroyo has the lesser role, but he plays it with considerable aplomb.
“Broken Sky” is not for everyone—the film requires patience and some intense concentration. But the challenge will be rewarded.