“It’s your choice to play happy families”
Produced, written and directed by Leon Lopez, Soft Lad is a newly released Brit flick that takes a look at gay life in contemporary Liverpool. Twenty-two year old dancer David seems to have a bright future ahead of him having just been accepted to a prestigious dance school but a secret affair with an older man threatens to derail everything for him and those around him. For the man he’s been sleeping with for two years just happens to be his sister’s husband Jules.
David may be out but trapped in this toxic relationship (the highlight of which appears to be dirty weekends in Lake District), has barely explored his sexuality and when Jules reacts negatively to the prospect of him moving on, a trip to a gay club leads to a one night stand with the more experienced Sam. Their lustful encounter soon moves to a deeper connection, enraging Jules further but no-one is prepared for the revelations that spill during a climactic, abortive dinner party at his sister’s.
It’s a rather low-key drama but works well in its quieter moments, the intimacy between the small cast palpable at its crucial moments. Daniel Brocklebank is excellent as the closeted Jules, fiercely charming when he wants to be but fierce when the challenge of hiding his true self becomes too much and Suzanne Collins, Lopez’s former Brookside co-star, is also strong as the sensitive Jane, aware that something is unsettling both her husband and her brother but unaware just what.
Jonny Labey is good as David though could possibly delve deeper into the character to give us a sense of his inner conflict as he’s comparatively much stronger as he opens up into the tentative first steps of love with Craig Stein’s Sam. Soft Lad is Lopez’s directorial debut and he marshals his limited resources well. Whilst he may rely a little too much on montages and telephone message voiceovers and signposts his major twist a little too obviously, it’s an accomplished debut and I’ll be interested to see both his writing and directing develop.