Valentine’s Day is coming up — and this year, going out may not be an option. Why not couple up on the couch and set the mood with some queer romance? Here are a handful of LGBTQ films available via various streaming platforms:
Out gay writer/director Mike Mosallam’s fabulous Ramadan rom-com (available on demand) is expanded from his terrific 2015 short of the same name (which starred different actors). This enjoyable romance puts a spotlight on a neglected segment of the queer community, gay Muslims.
Mo (out actor Haaz Sleiman), is heartbroken after his closeted lover, Hassan (Patrick Sabongui) ends their relationship. With the encouragement of his best friend Sam (a scene-stealing Amin El Gamal), Mo unexpectedly finds himself attracted to Superman-loving Kal (Michael Cassidy), an actor. However, because it is Ramadan, and the Holy Month forbids impure thoughts and activities, the devout Mo is forced to practice self-control.
Mosallam’s clever conceit — and what makes this charming film so romantic — is that Mo and Kal are able to get to know one another and fall in love as their relationship develops over numerous dinners and dates. “Breaking Fast” does feature many of the genre’s conventions, from broad embarrassment humor, to comic misunderstandings, but it also includes thoughtful discussions about how gay Arabs reconcile their sexuality and their religion.
The irresistible Sleiman exudes charisma — and displays palpable comic anxiety as he slowly couples up with Kal.
Equal parts cautionary tale and romance, “Good Kisser,” streaming on Netflix through February 19, has Jenna (Kari Alison Hodge) and Kate (Rachel Paulson) opening up their relationship. The couple go over to see Mia (Julia Eringer) for a possible threesome. There is awkward small talk at first — Jenna is adorably nervous — and Kate steals some kisses with Mia behind her lover’s back. But the dynamics keep shifting. Mia starts putting the moves on Jenna, letting things simmer before they really heat up. Mia’s sensual application of some ice to cool her down may help. As the three women do body shots, and play spin the bottle, Jenna gets more comfortable. It is not a spoiler to reveal that the trio eventually end up in the bedroom.
Writer/director Wendy Jo Carlton lets things unfold slowly, but viewers come to care about Jenna, who comes to reevaluate her relationship with Kate as thing progress quickly.
“Good Kisser” does get a bit risible when it tries to be risqué — a popsicle is used as a sexual device — but the film ends on an upbeat note, showing that romance can take many forms.
This fabulous Brazilian import, streaming on Netflix, is a wonderful, energetic romantic comedy from Brazil. The title character (Anne Celestino) is a never-been-kissed trans teenager whose father Jean Genet (Emmanuel Rosset) moves to a small town for a few months. Alice despairs when she must attend a Catholic high school and is asked to dress as a boy. Her humiliations multiply at school, but she does make some friends, including Taisa (Surya Amitrano) and Viviane (Thais Schier). She also develops a crush on Bruno (Matheus Moura).
“Alice Júnior” peppers its engaging heroine’s experiences with lively animation and videos, but it is her father’s unconditional love and protection — he is proud of his daughter and fights for her rights — that make the film so gratifying. Watching Alice transform the school by lobbying for bathroom rights, fighting off bullies, and raising feminist consciousness at a pool party is both heartwarming and empowering.
“Alaska Is a Drag”
Also streaming on Netflix is writer/director Shaz Bennett’s feature “Alaska Is a Drag,” which is based on her award-winning short. Leo (Martin L. Washington, Jr.) is a young, gay Black man bullied at the fish cannery where he works. When newcomer Declan (out actor Matt Dallas) comes to Leo’s aid, the guys become close friends — and possible romantic partners. There are subplots involving Leo’s complicated family, his penchant for performing in drag at Jan’s (Margaret Cho) bar, and his affinity for boxing. Bennett may shoehorn too many storylines into her brief running time, but Washington is ingratiating as Leo, and Dallas is pretty dreamy as his potential love interest.
Looking to revisit a gay classic? This charming romance, streaming on Amazon and Apple TV, just celebrated its twentieth anniversary. “Big Eden” was the debut film by out gay writer/director Thomas Bezucha. Henry (Arye Gross), is a closeted grandson returning to Montana to care for the infirmed Sam (George Coe), who raised him. Henry also grapples with his feelings for Dean (Tim DeKay), the one who got away, while, another man, Pike (Eric Schweig), secretly pines for Henry.
The film’s gentle humor stems from the fact that no one — except Henry — cares that Henry is gay. The film features wonderful supporting characters, from the busybody Widow Thayer (Nan Martin) to a Greek chorus of men who hang out in Pike’s store. Moreover, the sexual tension between Henry and Dean is sweet — DeKay is ruggedly handsome and overly demonstrative, giving Henry all kinds of mixed signals. But it is the Pike’s quiet desire for the oblivious Henry that is more satisfying. When the couple finally get to dance together one evening, it is magical.
Bezucha guides “Big Eden” effortlessly. One of the best scenes in the film is a Thanksgiving dinner, where all of the characters reveal their emotions without any dialogue. This film holds up on a first, second, or third look.
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