The war boys

George comes out to his adopted sister

Review from the Gay Celluloid -

Some films take you by surprise, only to fail when it comes to realizing their full potential and this sadly, is one such case. Not that you would know that from the start, when home from "extended freshman leave," David is reunited with his best friends George and Greg; aka the war boys of the title. Up to their old tricks in seemingly no time at all, they are soon to be found stealing, that is when not out alerting the authorities to illegal immigrants crossing the US / Mexican border, all for the fun of it. Only it is affairs of the heart that are destined to transverse boundaries, when David and George become more than just close friends in the middle of the night. Yet with all three out to make a quick buck courtesy of stealing one of David's father's contraband laden trucks, could it be that they have crossed the line for one last time?

Adapted by Naomi Wallace with the co-writing hand of Bruce McLeod from her original stage play, here we find first time director Ron Daniels embark on an ambitious cinematic journey, given the degree of themes raised within its celluloid time frame. Yet with issues as wide ranging as adoption, immigration and sexuality, let alone the alarming, if telegraphed from the onset side of the story that is, well that would reveal all, something had to give and that is the emotional impact of the feature itself. Had it been played differently, with signs of gay affection breaking into acts of outright love earlier on, then the melodramatic finale would have undoubtedly resonated with more intensity. Only by compressing "everything openly gay" into the thirty-four minute closing act, it fails to make the heartbreaking grade, even if the narrative is refreshingly different to the standard gay genre.

Still and to Daniels' credit, both Greg's hetero and the boy's homo relationships are handled with the same degree of sexual openness, whilst David's father's reaction to his son's burgeoning sexuality is probably unique in gay cinema. As too it's well performed, with the camaraderie of its youthful players vividly realistic, leaving Peter Gallagher as the Jekyll and Hyde character of the piece; loving his son one moment, threatening him the next. Yet and in spite of all of its positives, it falls at the last hurdle, all of which adds up to a crying shame, as there was some serious potential here for a gay classic in the making, given the relatively few scenes that take place between the boys and indeed of George coming out to his adopted sister are frankly - beautifully rendered.

The stories that unfold about each of these boys are what make the film gel. Grigorio is a virgin and is infatuated with Marta : the interaction between these two needy people - the virgin Grigorio and Marta who is afraid of becoming involved with someone younger than she is - speaks mountains about relationships versus infatuation and physical needs. David and George have a past history of acting out a physical attraction and this comes forth in a set of scenes that address young male sexual identity challenges in some of the most beautifully realized and subtle scenes on film. David and Slater have father/son relationship problems that come to a crisis with David's attraction to George: the surprise is how sensitively this conflict is worked out.

Given these character developments and the many critical topics the film addresses (prejudice against illegals, taking advantage of the built in crime of the border towns, sexual identity challenges, etc) the ending of the film is intensely dramatic and leaves the audience with a profound message. An excellent young cast and a fine director make this a powerful little film that should not be missed.

To watch The war boys, click here.