As Marc (Tom Bateman) and Fred (Sean Teale) register at St. Jude’s Bed & Breakfast, they catch glimpse of a newspaper headline: “Homosexuals Sue Christian for Double Bed.” We soon learn that they are the “homosexuals” who took the innkeeper, Josh (Paul McGann), to court for denying them the same accommodations as a straight couple when they visited a year ago. They’re back because Marc isn’t content with their victory; he wants to prove a point by flashing a wedding ring and demonstrating who’s in the minority now.
Although the award-winning movie, B&B, quickly becomes a suspense thriller, the set-up is ripe for a drama that asks its audience to consider both sides of the gay marriage issue (as well as fundamental beliefs about homosexuality.) On one hand, we have devout Christian Josh, who believes being gay is an unnatural sin. On the other, we have militant gay Marc, who not only believes he and his husband are equal to anyone else, but also wants to flaunt it and cram it down everyone else’s throat.
If you believe people are entitled to their beliefs regardless of what you know in your heart is the truth, neither side is necessarily good or bad. That’s why it’s Fred who emerges as the sympathetic character. Satisfied with a favorable courtroom verdict, he’s more willing to let bygones be bygones. This creates additional drama between him and his husband when they agree on virtually nothing throughout the course of the 87-minute movie. Several times I wondered why they were even together.
Into this potentially volatile combination of personalities arrive two others: Josh’s 16-year old son, Paul (Callum Woodhouse) and a hulking Russian guest, Alexie (James Tratas). Both have secrets of their own that propel the story in a different direction. The catalyst is the undefined relationships among them all. Is Alexie a neo-Nazi who saw Marc’s announcement on Facebook and is there to bash a gay or two, or is he also gay and there to cruise the attractive young couple? Is Paul a potential victim of Alexie’s, or a potential ally?
The twists and turns come fast and furiously. What prevents B&B from devolving into a far-fetched thriller is the development of the characters throughout the chaos. At various times, they’re aligned with each other in different combinations, sometimes restraining their inherent beliefs in order to achieve a common outcome. They never let entirely go of these beliefs, though. For example, Josh will do anything to protect his son, even if it means cooperating with someone whose life he believes does not matter.
Writer/director Joe Ahearne has said, “I wanted to do a thriller in the Hitchcock vein but with gay characters making the wrong choices and getting terrified out of their wits. B&B goes beyond the gay relationship movie. It’s a thriller with a married couple at the center, something I haven’t seen before.” I agree that it’s much more than a “gay relationship movie;” however, it helps to understand some of Marc and Fred’s motivations if you have familiarity with the subject. Otherwise, an argument over Marc thinking Alexie is checking him out seems silly.
Marc would approach stereotype if not for Fred providing balance. When it comes down to it, all kinds of people have all kinds of personalities and behaviors. Gay, straight, white, black, male, female… when faced with adversity, you never know what qualities will surface. B&B does a good job of demonstrating diversity among type. If not for the basic set-up of the movie, it might be irrelevant that Marc and Fred are gay. Based only on their actions and reactions, it’s not as difficult as it is in some “gay movies,” to substitute straight for gay.
All of this aside, B&B is a solid and entertaining thriller. Peccadillo Pictures recently obtained distribution rights for the UK and Ireland after its world premiere at the London Independent Film Festival, where it won Best LGBT film. If what you’ve read so far hasn’t convinced you, let me reiterate that defining it as an LGBT film may limit the movie’s potential for success. It comes closer than any other movie I’ve seen defined as LGBT to being simply a good movie that happens to have gay characters.