Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB. United Kingdom, 2018. Diablo Films, BFI Film Fund, Creativity Capital. Screenplay by Steve McLean. Cinematography by Annika Summerson. Produced by Soledad Gatti-Pascual. Music by Julian Bayliss. Production Design by Ollie Tiong. Costume Design by Kate Forbes. Film Editing by Stephen Boucher.
Harris Dickinson, once again playing gay bait dipped in body oil, is a young man from Essex whose big dreams take him, against his parents’ better judgment, to seek his fortune in London. His arrival in the city immediately puts him in dire straits, sleeping in a cardboard box until a group of high-class rentboys teach him the tricks of the trade, installing him in a booth in their gorgeously neon-lit club and instructing him on the finer aspects of being a young male companion. The customers, he is told, want more than just lustful consummation, they want someone they can talk to about art and culture, leading to cramming sessions on the films of Fassbinder and the paintings of Caravaggio. Coming into contact with fine art turns out to be a weak point for our hero, who is so overwhelmed by the classics that it induces fainting spells; while he becomes the most sought after sex worker in the city, a shady figure from his past sees his weakness for genuine art (and its ability to spot a forgery) as something worth exploiting. Beautifully shot and benefiting greatly from its lead actor’s undeniable physical appeal, this film is simple Peter Greenaway or weak Derek Jarman, it’s hard to decide which, far too timid about sexuality and never finding the nerve of its plot that would make it compelling. Constantly threatening to be sexy or interesting while simultaneously threatening to actually begin, this is a frustrating ninety minutes of setup to a story that never gets there.