Movie Review - BWOY

Playing at qFLIX Philadelphia 2017.
East Coast Premiere, Saturday, March 18 at 7:15PM at the Prince Theater.

This is John G. Young's fourth feature concerning interracial, gay relationships. Specifically, it concerns a white man and a black man. The premise is about online dating, which is great because it's stunning how a lot of LGBT films, even recent ones like the Oscar-winning Moonlight, behave as if the Internet doesn't exist and that gay people don't have specific apps and web sites for connecting and hooking up. Young reveals though the insecurities and even dangers in that online dating. Young also smartly does something that was brilliant and akin to the brilliance of Ava DuVernay's 13th. Young juxtaposes images of online articles about slavery with images of nude, black men. Both images are being clicked by a white, gay man, and Young lets that juxtaposition wash over the audience without hammering the issue. Yet, Young doesn't take it to where Jordan Peele did in his recent film Get Out. He arguably takes it to a better place.

Anthony Rapp (Rent and A Beautiful Mind) stars as Brad, a 42-year-old white man who works exclusively over the phone as a bill collector in Schenectady, New York. Instead of searching his hometown, he goes online and searches Kingston, Jamaica. There, he meets Yenny, played by Jimmy Brooks. Yenny is 23 who unlike all the other men online doesn't send a picture of his penis but sends sweet words and prefers a nice chat.

Even though it does become sexual, the two are disarmed by the conversation, which includes a lot of texting. In fact, there's practically no spoken dialogue for 11 minutes, and their relationship is built on a foundation that feels almost father-and-son in nature. The signature of the dynamic between the two is Yenny insisting Brad call him his "Jamaican pussy boy." Given Yenny's thick, island accent, the word boy is pronounced in the titular way of "bwoy." In return, Yenny calls Brad "daddy Brad" and then proceeds to show him his underwear and more. The idea of two people with a father-and-son dynamic having sex is not an uncommon fantasy, but Young's ominous tone throughout, especially visually, suggests something sinister or actually incestuous on the horizon. But, don't worry. This is not Gerald McCullouch's Daddy.

The last time a LGBT film dealt with an interracial relationship between a white person and a black Jamaican was Kareem Mortimer's Children of God (2011). That movie does end with something sinister. It ends with a moment of violence. This movie creates pins and needles, almost as if Young is also going to end with a horrifying moment of violence. As such, Young builds suspense with very foreboding flashbacks, which suggest certain things and implies even worse.

Breaking Glass Pictures is distributing the film and until about a fourth of the way through, it plays as a companion to Kyle Patrick Alvarez's Easier With Practice (2010), another previous title for Breaking Glass Pictures. Alvarez's film was also about a long-distance relationship where the white protagonist is a bit socially awkward, if not slightly reclusive. Alvarez's film though felt like Catfish (2010) before Catfish.

This movie ostensibly could be a Catfish after Catfish. However, Young undermines that easy comparison at about a fourth of the way through. Alvarez's film has his white protagonist form a relationship with a person he never sees. Young on the other hand allows us to see Yenny through an online video chat, so we think that he couldn't possibly be setting up a Catfish situation. Yet, insidiously, Young still sows the seeds of doubt. That doubt isn't necessarily just in Yenny. It's also in Brad, as we see him as a walking, or mostly sitting contradiction. He's a bill collector who avoids bill collectors who are after him.

Whether intentionally or not, Young criticizes the idea of the white savior. Young plays with themes like loss of a child and homophobia. He practically plays them against each other for sympathetic effect, but then uses that to eschew this notion of a white man to the rescue. Despite the politics of a place like Jamaica, we're not left with this idea that black people are victims in need of rescue. I suppose that leaves the audience to decide how much hurt has been inflicted and who has had the most inflicted upon them.

Not Rated but contains language, nudity and sexual references.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 27 mins.

Playing at qFLIX Philadelphia 2017.
East Coast Premiere, Saturday, March 18 at 7:15PM at the Prince Theater.
Opens Theatrically at the Laemmle Music Hall on March 31.
Available on DVD and VOD on April 4.
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