“The whole gay thing, is it still an issue any more?”
Part of Channel 4’s 2007 gay season, Clapham Junction was written by Kevin Elyot showing the lives of a number of separate but interconnected gay men over 36 hours in the Clapham area of London. So we have civil partnership ceremonies with the groom shagging one of the waiters at the party afterwards, dinner party guests meeting inopportunely at the local cottage before a ghastly middle class gathering, a teenage stalker finally meeting the handsome neighbour unaware of his troubled past, and guys prowling round the common for anonymous sex, little aware that a violent psychotic is amongst them.
Phoebe Nicholls’ delightfully overbearing mother with her monstrous prejudices, Samantha Bond’s blithely unaware party guest, Luke Treadaway’s sweatily intense teenager Theo desperate to offer himself up to Joseph Mawle’s lithe mystery man, Rupert Graves’ confident out television maker toying with James Wilby’s closet case (a neat nod back to Maurice), there are undoubtedly performances aplenty to be savoured in here. But the construction of the whole film is just generally too weak, Elyot’s writing uninventive and heavy-handed in the message it thumps home.
Too often, Elyot and also director Adrian Shergold rely on clichéd devices which just feel derivative. Characters repeatedly cross paths but to no real avail and one is just left thinking London is far too big for this amount of coincidental meetings. The dinner party speaks of a dire lack of imagination as a way of easily pushing forth all sorts of arguments and viewpoints but by putting them into the mouths of a crowd of objectionably middle-class nobodies, its connection to the film feels forced. And the amount of willy waving going on just feels like a salacious grab for attention.
In terms of the story being told about gay men, it also feels lacking. Yes, homophobic violence is still a horrendously real factor in our lives but it is hammered home unnecessarily strongly here, the final shot being a particularly gratuitous repeat of its downbeat main theme. And it doesn’t really delve into the reality of gay life for many men who enjoy a healthy sex life and practice open relationships, by not referencing this and instead just imposing a heteronormative viewpoint on sex, Clapham Junction just misses the point. It’s not a terrible piece of film-making, just one that seems to have little sense of what it wants to say and to whom.