“Gay joy” is not something that is often represented onscreen. Hell, “gay normal” is not something that is often represented onscreen, either. Gay men and women are suffering in movie after movie and series after series. Or they’re secondary characters engaged in banal storylines as counterpoints to the straight leads.
What’s remarkable about writer-director Mike Doyle’s Almost Love is that it dares to represent a recognizable gay relationship. Originally titled Sell By, you can understand the instinct to go with something so evocative of what Doyle is saying about long-term relationships. In a world—and a culture—increasingly turning away from the concept of The One, how do we know if we’re just treading water?
Painter Adam (Scott Evans) and influencer Marklin (Augustus Prew) are game but secretly asking themselves that question as they approach their five-year anniversary. Their friends aren’t much help, either: Haley (Zoe Chao) is tutoring a teen who falls in love with her, and Cammy (Michelle Buteau) keeps dating a hot homeless man (who is played by Colin Donnell, so we get it).
Released less than a month into quarantine, the movie quietly disappeared. For those of us who caught it last April, watching this low-key ensemble romantic dramedy set across New York City was almost unbearably poignant at a time when we weren’t sure when we’d be able to experience the city again. (Still waiting on that answer, actually.)
But what Doyle—himself a performer—does with quiet elegance is to lay bare the everyday lives of people who are suffering in utterly recognizable ways. The universality of their plights is craftily disguised beneath beautiful cinematography and quirks, but these chic, funny, gorgeous New Yorkers are very much us. Just maybe us on our best days.
There’s a raucousness to the movie, too—Almost Love is by no means staid, particularly during a brutal public fight. But what a prize to see a gay couple played by gay actors—Doyle insisted—who really understand what it’s like to be gay men in a relationship. Almost Love is an assured, gorgeous debut film that belongs in your watch history.