Gay bashing is, sadly, a very real thing. In a world where we have seen social acceptance and legal rights granted to more different groups of the population than ever before, the perceived desire to want to discriminate also appears to be stronger than ever before. Restaurants, shops, even medical professionals, have chosen to exercise their religious beliefs as a means to discriminate against those in the gay community (It does go wider than that, but for the sake of this review I’ll keep it limited to LGBTQ.). Even people who wish to stay at a Bed & Breakfast are sometimes told that they are not welcome. It is here that we find our story with this movie, B&B.
The premise is almost ridiculously simple at first. A married same-sex couple, Marc and Fred, have just won a legal battle against a B&B for the right to sleep in a Queen Sized bed. So in an act of celebration, they are returning to that same B&B where their legal challenge was born. It is here we meet Josh, the owner of the B&B, who is a devout Christian, a widower, and a father to his son Paul. Only they are soon not to be alone, as a mysterious traveler check in to the B&B as well. All they know is that his name is Alexie, and he appears to only speak Russian. And he has tattoos. Quite a few disturbing tattoos. And he’s intimidating. He’s so intimidating that Fred actually becomes somewhat scared of the man. Who is Alexie? Is he a neo-Nazi? Is he gay? Is he a gay-basher? Or does he hold some other, more nefarious, secret that is yet to be discovered?
B&B doesn’t play like most thrillers of this type, especially when you have gay protagonists. In other movies of that nature, the characterizations are very black and white. The gay characters are usually “the good guys,” with the homophobic characters as quite the bad guys. Sometimes there is a slight role reversal, but good gay guy approach has become so standard it borders on cliché. B&B doesn’t follow that trope. Marc & Fred, are not exactly the most likable guys when you first meet them, especially Marc. He comes off as a bit militant at times. Even his on-screen husband, Fred, describes him as a “sore winner.” Josh on the other hand, while he may initially seem almost like the religious stereotype with how his beliefs dictate his actions, the movie reveals that he has more depth to him. Whatever others may think about his beliefs, he is a man of conviction. In other words, when it comes to these characters, especially Marc and Josh, they are quite simply, real people. Their personalities are very much in the area of grey. Each one believes he is right, each one can be a bit off-putting at times, and each one can show tremendous compassion as well. They are real people, which lie at the heart of this largely character driven thriller. Even the son Paul, and the mysterious Alexie, have much more going for their characters that continues to unfold during the course of the film.
The mystery and thriller aspect of this film builds slowly. Writer/Director Joe Ahearne (directed the episode “Dalek” from Doctor Who as well as 6 episodes of the British TV series Ultraviolet) has expressed his great love for Alfred Hitchcock, and has set out to create his own kind of Hitchcockian thriller. The suspense starts off slowly, but you’re not sure where it comes from. It is only when it starts to reach a certain intensity that the twists and the surprises (both plot and character) start coming out. The story and characters are so well crafted that it’s definitely hard to guess where the movie will take you next. At one time I even figured out the Russian’s role in this, but even by the end of the film it went somewhere I didn’t expect
The cast for this movie is absolutely outstanding. Starting with Tom Bateman (Marc) and Sean Teale (Fred) you could not see a more opposite like married couple, and yet their shared screen moments are so well acted you would start to think that perhaps they’ve been married for a very long time! Both of them have been in the business for quite some time, where Tom has done both television and stage work in the West End, while Sean has done both feature films and television, including for the US. Neither of them falls into caricatures at any time, and each one shows a wonderful range of acting and emotion, but always within the established confines of the character each one plays.
The big surprise for this film was Josh, beautifully underplayed by veteran actor Paul McGann (Doctor Who, Withnail and I). Through him we come to understand that Josh is a man with no pretenses, but McGann also shows that Josh has cracks in his armor, especially when it comes to his son. Other actors could have taken on Josh, but at the risk of looking like they were playing two different people. Josh is beautifully complex in his own way, and yet with McGann we accept that he is one person with a certain amount of emotional repression. Finally there is Paul, the teenage son who is burdened with a secret that it is destroying him from the inside out. Actor Callum Woodhouse, who is relatively new on the scene, shows that the training he received at LAMDA did not go to waste. He shows that Paul is both terribly sympathetic at one moment, and yet dangerous the next.
The cinematography is both simple and beautiful. Shot in Bristol, England, Director of Photography, Nick Dance, seems like the perfect person to shoot this feature. His shots are quite varied, and at times taken on ever so slightly unusual angles when filming certain scenes. He does it just right, not to alarm you or telegraph that something is wrong, but to start build a slight sense of unease, even though you will most likely not be aware of it. His scenes in a local park at night are some of the most beautiful, as well as somewhat surreal.
Many thrillers of this type usually have some type of denouement, but B&B does not. Even though the main threat in the plot, and the fallout that comes from that threat, are dealt with in a well-paced manner, we are not left with a sense of satisfaction or resolution. Director Ahearne delivers one last character twist that left me feeling slightly unsettled; a reminder that even after certain challenges may appear to be dealt with, it does not mean that everyone lives happily ever after. Life goes on, but in a world where people of vehemently differing points of view co-exist, there will always be that sense of unease and intimidation. Perhaps the message that B&B is trying to convey, is that it’s not people who are either inherently good or bad, rather it’s the ideas and values in the world today that have the potential to become threatening.
This was unlike any other movie I have ever seen, and one that required me to do a lot of thinking about when it was over, but after having “digested” it for 24 hours, I would have to say that B&B is one of the smartest thrillers to come along in quite some time.
B&B has just been picked up for UK and Irish Distribution by Peccadillo Pictures, has been playing at Film Festivals around the world, and is represented by ChicArt Public Relations. To learn more about B&B please visit their website.
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