›› The Surface
a film by Michael J. Saul.
2015 | 79 mins | US.
principal players: Harry Hains / Evan Jones, Michael Redford / Peter Berg, Nicholas McDonald / Chris Stentz, Kyle Patrick Darling / Fish, Samantha Bowling / Michelle, Jinny Chung / Amy, Robert Weiner / Harry Berg, Casey Sullivan / Tom, Benjamin Dennis / Jake and Bryson Pitts as young Evan, Gabe White as young Peter and Miles Platt as Mark.
Adapted Synopsis: "Orphaned as a child, disaffected college student Evan Jones has come to find love in the arms of his wealthy boyfriend Chris, only for disparities in their social and financial backgrounds to increasingly threaten their volatile relationship. It's a backdrop that sees Evan strike up a friendship and possibly more with Peter, courtesy of a chance encounter with his father at a yard sale, one that saw Evan acquire an 8mm camera, along with a pile of old home movies, featuring a young Peter and his childhood best friend Mark. Touched by the genuine friendship shared between the two young men, Evan begins to question his own relationship, if not his place on the path of life itself."
From noted indie director Michael J. Saul of Crush and Adults Only fame comes this captivating study of love, friendship and life. And it's a delightful laidback piece too. For taken at a deliberate unhurried pace, here Saul has allowed the story to shine in all of its contemplative glory. Indeed, it's as if we're eavesdropping on the private conversations of rising star Harry Hains in the lead role, who as budding filmmaker Evan Jones delivers a wonderfully natural performance of a youth moved from one foster home to another as a child and who through home movies of yesteryear, begins to question what his childhood could have been like, had things been different.
A captivating study of love, friendship and life, in The Surface.
Only and in as much as Evan is a young man who still has to find himself; albeit not his sexuality, being clearly at ease with his gay self, here Saul has notably gone out of his way to show the love that both the men in his life hold for him, a genuine sense of affection that sees Nicholas McDonald as boyfriend Chris deliver an achingly realistic turn of a man knowing that their relationship is all but over, in spite of him clearly not wishing it to be, whilst alternatively Michael Redford as Evan's almost father-like figure Peter is wise enough to know the true value of love, culminating in a heartfelt third act. Indeed, there's a myriad of neat touches to be found in this introspective piece, perhaps not surprising given the concept for this work is highly personal, that of a re-evaluation by Saul of his own family life and childhood, following the passing of his parents.
Yet this film belongs to Harry Hains; his model looks not lost on Saul who shots his subject with an abundance of TLC, along the way wonderfully juxtaposing the cinematography of today with footage shot the classic 8mm way, in a work that and by no surprise is proudly gay-to-the-core, with Hains seen getting down to some passionate man-on-man lip-service, not to mention, oh I'm just going to, often naked in front of the camera, such is his character's love for swimming, au natural. True, reflective works of this nature are not to everyone's cinematic taste and yes, this feature is as far removed from the pulsating nightclub beat of city life, as you can get. But it's a change of narrative direction that's more than welcome; that of a character driven work that speaks, if not shouts of family, friendships and love, making for a message-in-a-bottle piece that poignantly reminds us, not to take life for granted. Personally I found it quite beautiful and undoubtedly Saul's best work to-date.
Gay Visibility - overt.
Nudity - bare-arsed cheek.
Overall - file under ... 3+ stars.