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  • Writer's pictureToni Oisin H.C. (QSO)

7 Underrated Gay Movies You Might’ve Missed

Let's save you from scrolling Netflix.


A watercolor image by Alexander Grey that is in rainbow order: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.

While things are getting better, sometimes it’s easy to feel like the range of gay-centred movies out there is still restricted. Which, let’s be real, is probably because it is. It seems like for every queer story that gets published, you end up with about ten more heterosexual rom-coms with basically the same two leads on the poster.


With so many films being made, and comparably so few being available on streaming services, it can sometimes take time to sift out things worth watching. As well, it’s easy for some stunning stories to get missed or hidden behind other, big releases. It can also be particularly difficult to find something you want to see in the often tiny LGBTQ+ categories.


Personally, I often find myself watching whatever new release that happens to be queer - regardless of whether I think I’ll like it or not. In a weird way, I love that enough LGBTQ+ films are being made that even the crappy, daytime-TV quality work gets published. Still, though, isn’t it nicer to be able to watch something you… Actually enjoy?


If you're into queer cinema, it’s safe to assume that you’ve probably already seen the vast majority of the classics, like Brokeback Mountain or Moonlight. You might have even already exhausted the “obvious titles”, particularly if you’re of the “I’ll watch anything gay… Once.” camp, like myself. Once you scratch the surface, though, some real hidden gems are still out there.


Here are a few you might have missed:


Making Love (1982)

Although it failed to perform well upon release at the box office, Making Love is a significant film in American cinematic history for being an early sensitive and sympathetic depiction of homosexuality. Michael Ontkean features as Zack, a young doctor who finds himself in the middle of a love triangle between his wife, Clare (Kate Jackson), and an author, Bart (Harry Hamlin).



Told in a non-linear format, the movie is interspersed with talking head style sequences interviewing each character about their perspectives. The performances of the three leads elevate the film beyond its unearned ‘soap opera’ status from critics at the time, with each star conveying the messy emotions of all those involved in the entanglement to an exceptional standard.


Although the topic itself seems easy to sensationalise - gasp, a respectable doctor is cheating on his wife! And it's with a man! - the film actually proves to be a very sweet, intimate story about different kinds of love.


 

Touch of Pink (2004)

Not to be confused with the Delbert Mann classic of a similar title, Touch of Pink is a lighthearted magical realism movie following Alim (Jimi Mistry) and the spirit of Cary Grant (Kyle MacLachlan).



Alim is a gay man who has migrated transatlantically from Toronto to London away from his somewhat conservative family. Life is fun in London - that is, until his mother Nuru (Suleka Mathew) arrives for a surprise visit, effectively forcing Alim and his boyfriend Giles (Kris Holden-Ried) back into the closet.


The cosy comedy explores identity, intersectionality, and the complexities of family with an unexpected ensemble cast. Although the film touches on some complex topics, it doesn’t take itself too seriously or shy away from campness.


 

Handsome Devil (2016)

Starring Fionn O’Shea and Nicholas Galitzine, who are perhaps better known for their roles in Dating Amber and Red, White, and Royal Blue respectively, Handsome Devil is a dramedy about being queer in an all-boys boarding school.



Although the setup seems to imply the movie may be a romance, it’s a little more Dead Poets Society than Love, Simon. The film’s most poignant scenes are probably those exploring the generational experiences of homophobia experienced by the lead and one of his guardian figures, both in terms of their differences and similarities.


Across 2017 and 2018, Handsome Devil gained huge critical appraisal in winning six awards outright, with a further nine nominations.


 

Dear Ex (2018)

Netflix caught me out terribly by listing this film as a “romantic comedy”, which I watched on Valentine’s Day with my partner. I can safely say this film isn’t a fluffy rom-com, but rather a powerful exploration of queer grief and the difficulties of found families.



After the passing of his father, Song Cheng-xi (Joseph Huang) finds himself caught in the middle of a posthumous love triangle in the form of an inheritance battle. As the viewers learn about the unconventional family thrust together by his mother (Hsieh Ying-xuan) and his father’s lover (Roy Chiu), Song Cheng-xi is, too, on a journey of retroactively decoding his father’s life.


Dear Ex particularly shines during its flashback sequences, wherein the gay relationship between Song Zheng-yuan (Spark Chen) and his partner, Jay, is explored. Although the partnership is only shown through the rear mirrors of grief, its love is felt throughout the whole movie.


 

Alex Strangelove (2018)

Alex Strangelove is a sweet coming-of-age comedy directed by Craig Johnson about discovering your sexuality as a teenager.



The titular Alex (Daniel Dohey) is a high school senior who seems to have it all figured out: he’s the class president, has a great girlfriend, a moderately successful YouTube channel, and pretty soon he’s headed off to college. Things start to spiral out of control for him when he meets Elliot (Antonio Marziale) at a house party, who promptly comes out to him.


As a friendship develops between the two boys, Alex’s long overdue crisis of sexuality comes to a head. The movie takes us on a delightfully awkward journey through Alex’s reckoning with his identity via the B-52s and MUNA, seedy motels, concerts, prom, and psychedelic parties. Don’t all the best nights start with a psychoactive toad?


 

I Am Jonas (2018)

Also known mononymously as Jonas or Boys, I Am Jonas is a French mystery-drama about grief, growth, and guilt. With a runtime that’s just shy of an hour and a half, the film’s tight storytelling remains compelling throughout.



What seems to start off as a story ultimately about growing up, becomes a twisting tale of a missing boy called Nathan (Tommy-Lee Baïk). The narrative darts between the present day and 1997 to unravel Jonas’ (Félix Maritaud; Nicolas Bauwens) personal history, chronicling his adolescence and adulthood as a gay man. This narrative device is a real gem for those with an affinity for ‘90s nostalgia, with Tetris, Gameboys, and Gregg Araki’s Nowhere making major appearances throughout the protagonist’s teen years.


 

Your Name Engraved Herein (2020)

With visuals and storytelling to die for, it’s hard to believe that Your Name Engraved Herein is only Kuang-Hui Liu’s second feature-length movie.



Set in 1980s post-martial law Taiwan, the film centres on the lives of high schoolers Ahan (Edward Chen) and Birdy (Tseng Jing-Hua). The movie tackles heavy topics like internalised homophobia, religion, and inequality with remarkable grace and elegance, always avoiding becoming a dirge through the use of joy as a contrasting force.


The darker scenes are contrasted excellently with sequences expressing pure, unfiltered queer joy, such as in one sequence set in Taipei. The boys explore the country’s capital city together on behalf of their school - finding both themselves and each other in the process. The bittersweet bildungsroman is not one to miss.



 


Toni Oisin H.C. is the Head of Audio at QSO Media. Read more of his writing here.


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