Ben’s “Gay” Breakdown | “Shared Rooms”

As part of my movie watching for TGGeeks I’ve decided to take a look at movies for the LGBTQ community that have probably flown under most people’s radar, and this time I’m going to examine Rob Williams’ drama/comedy Shared Rooms.

They say that gay men choose their own families, and that’s never more evident than during the holidays. Boyfriends, and increasingly these days husbands, create their own families and holiday traditions. During the holidays our friends truly become our family, but sometimes families change…

Thus begins a tale, or rather a series of tales, involving the definition of both family and tradition, and how they can intertwine during the holidays.

In what initially appears to be nothing more than a series of separate vignettes, Shared Rooms opens on Christmas Day where a married couple (Cal and Laslo) is hosting a small Christmas Day dinner with another couple. The conversation during dinner ends up steering towards children, but more on that later…

The second vignette finds two men sharing a bottle of wine. One of them is Julian and this is his home, and the other is Frank. Julian is all smiles while making small talk with Frank (who then reveals that he’s looking for something while visiting in the Los Angeles area) until Julian receives a phone call, and it’s from his roommate Dylan (actually he’s technically a renter of one of the rooms in Julian’s house) who is away on a business trip for the holidays. After chatting with Dylan for a few minutes he politely ends the phone call so that he can return his attention to Frank, but more on that later…

The third vignette (there is plenty of nudity here, so just be warned) introduces us to a man named Gray who is entering the home of a very naked man named Sid, who on Christmas night has decided to invite Gray over after seeing his profile on a gay dating app, but more on that later…

It’s now Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) and Julian has just finished making breakfast for Frank. While Julian is in the shower Dylan walks in from his business trip that had just been canceled. He walks into his room only to find Frank there, but more on that later…

Meanwhile Cal and Laslo receive an unexpected visitor in the form of Cal’s nephew, Zeke Masters, who has just been kicked out of his own home. Care to guess why? Despite their initial decision to not have children, neither of them wishes to refuse Zeke so they allow him to stay in their home, but more on that later…

Back at Julian’s house he’s having a chat with a very unhappy Dylan, as it turns out that since Dylan is away on business a lot, Julian has been renting Dylan’s room through LGBTQB&B.com, and now Dylan wants a piece of the action, especially since he’s now forced to sleep with Julian in his bed for the duration of Frank’s visit, but more on that later…

Sid and Gray have had their wonderful night together, and after having been asked by Sid to stay the night, the two men have already had breakfast when Gray receives a phone call from his ex-boyfriend that he’s still good friends with, and that would be Dylan, who is complaining about this untenable situation at having to sleep in the same bed with Julian, who he has been wildly in love with for over two years. It should also be pointed out that Gray has been receiving a number of mysterious phone calls from the same number and no message is ever left, but more on that later…

Cal and Laslo are woken up to noises coming from their kitchen. They walk in there to find Zeke and a counter full of prepared breakfast foods. It appears that Zeke is a really good cook and cooking helps him to relax, but more on that later…

Back at Sid’s house there is a moment of honesty between Sid and Gray where Sid admits to being 5 years sober. This impresses Gray so he has a secret that he wishes to share with Sid, but more on that later…

Cal and Laslo are seriously thinking about taking some sort of legal guardianship of young Zeke, and while Cal is calling his accountant to remind him that he’s invited to their New Year’s Eve Party he asks about how their taxes might be affected with Zeke in their home. Oh, did I mention that Cal’s accountant is Julian? Yes, but more on that later…

It’s New Year’s Eve and everyone is gathered over at Cal’s and Laslo’s home, but more on that later… Oh who am I kidding!!! Are you beginning to see a pattern form here??? This delightful movie shifts between some serious issues about what a family is, to taking a more lighthearted approach about how families can be chosen, which means they can also radically change in an instant. It can be a truly universal theme, not only in the LGBTQ community, but also among any strong network of friends. However since the concept of chosen families is particularly strong among LGBTQ people (because until recently we were generally shunned by our blood-relatives after coming out) it only made sense to use a group of gay men to illustrate how this all works, and what does make it work for this movie is this cast. Practically everyone here is a jewel, but there are three that stood out for me purely for personal reasons. First there is Justin Xavier (Sid). Aside from being just drop dead gorgeous; he presents himself as someone carrying a very old soul. It might be because of Sid’s issues with alcoholism and now being 5 years sober. That type of experience can definitely give a person a unique perspective on life and the world around him. Xavier’s performance never comes off as preachy, but fully confident with whom Sid is and what he has learned while on his never-ending road to recovery.

The other two I will mention together, and those are Cal and Laslo. Played respectively by Alec Manley Wilson and Christopher Grant Pearson, their on-screen chemistry is absolutely wonderful. Not only that, but even when each of them has his own moment there is a naturalness to their acting. Each of them has their own whimsical manner of expression, so of course when they’re sharing a scene (which is most of the time as opposed to individually) their energies just feed off each other in pure symbiotic banter that makes you believe that these two might actually be a married couple. It is that chemistry that I latched on to for it immediately reminded me of my own husband and the chemistry that we have as well.

Written and directed by Rob Williams, Shared Rooms isn’t one of these incredibly thought-provoking movies to come out of gay cinema. Instead it feels as it utilizes some familiar tropes as its bedrock, but it works. When the movie doesn’t address some thoughtful topics it then jumps over to light comedy, and all of these elements play so well, making Shared Rooms more than just a movie that I enjoyed; it’s a movie that I’ve come to love.

Shared Rooms is unrated, and is available on iTunes, Amazon, Vimeo, and Dekkoo.


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