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First Look Review - B&B

b&b film review
Following a court victory, two gay lovers return to a B&B whose owner had previously discriminated against them.







Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Joe Ahearne

Starring: Tom Bateman, Paul McGann, Sean Teale, Callum Woodhouse, James Tratas

b&b film poster

Isn’t the concept of homophobia fascinating? I have always been bowled over by people who are poisoned by their skewed apprehensions of other people’s sexuality. Are they misguided, actually disgusted, or, as the noun homophobic would imply, actually afeared of gay people, in the same way that kids are scared of monsters under the bed (or in the closet)? Racism, while of course inexcusable, is in some ways perhaps comprehensible, an atavistic, tribal kneejerk against a superficially other; with the lumbering racist and his underdeveloped lizardy brain pathetically overwhelmed by imaginary, perceived threats to his ‘culture’. But hating people based on what they get up to behind closed doors, or, as in B&B, in the park after dark (because that’s ultimately what it boils down to, as ever: sex), it beggars belief. Earlier this week a Tory politician informed a group of schoolkids that being homosexual was ‘wrong’ and, in fact, ‘dangerous’! Does he actually believe that? (Well, it could put your back out, I suppose…) Where does this unreasonable odium come from? What drives such misery?

b&b film

Perhaps it’s simple envy. Take Marc and Tom (Tom Bateman, Sean Peale), leads of Joe Ahearne’s fun enough thriller B&B - young, good looking and in love, these newly-weds would seem to have it all as they journey to a sleepy countryside b&b to celebrate their anniversary. It’s a strange place to visit for such metropolitan lads though; miles away from the nearest Cosmopolitan, there seems to be nothing doing in this neck of the woods. Maybe it’s the lure of the b&b’s landlord Josh, played by ex-pretty boy Paul McGann. Or perhaps not, as it turns out that some time ago, homophobic Josh only went and denied our boys a double bed when they stayed over, causing a legal battle which saw the gay couple win and Josh, his furtive son, and their business, severely diminished. Marc and Tom, they’ve come back to the sticks to gloat over Josh’s downfall. Um, well done lads?

It’s very silly. Our boys, who are handsome, well dressed and at least have each other (Josh’s wife, whom the film makes clear he loved a great deal, has died at some point), inadvertently come across as bitter bullies, a presentation that initially wrongfoots this well-meaning film. Chaps, you’ve won! Properly won in the way that it matters - publicly, legally, and in a manner that would be unheard of even a few years ago. Let it go.

b&b film

Our sympathies are further muddied by McGann’s lingering charisma and acting gravitas. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him, an old man mired in pointless, toxic fears which have ultimately defeated him. And plus, while I may not agree with his bigotry, isn’t there an argument that he should be free to run his own private business according to his own personal beliefs, even if they are baseless prejudices? It isn’t as if he’s out beating the shit out of young gay men every night, or poisoning rent boys of an evening. His is a sad intolerance, relatively benign. Pathetic, not perilous. Just choose another b&b, boys.

Perhaps B&B should have been told from the point of view of Josh himself, not our pretty leads. For all the accusations of homophobia towards Josh, the film never really gets to the meat of Marc and Tom. We learn nothing much else about them apart from their sexuality, which the film allows to define them in a way that may be just as reductive as Josh’s jaundiced view of the couple. McGann’s character is certainly more interesting. What does Josh make of the swarthy Russian who has booked a room the same night as his coiffured bete-noirs? The tattooed Russian interloper looks exactly like an extra from a GTA sub-mission, but this doesn’t stop Josh’s mopey son Paul (Callum Woodhouse) giving him lingering looks over the condiments… Based on their own prejudices towards the Former Soviet Union and its mad attitudes towards being gay, Tom and Marc get it into their well-groomed (but perhaps otherwise empty) heads that the Russian is on a secret mission to Kill The Gays, and they begin to investigate…

b&b film

When the film kicks into proper thriller mode, with a delightfully nuanced plot involving well plotted twists and delicious moral compromise, it’s completely entertaining in that Sunday night telly way (Ahearne’s most recent work was BBC’s The Replacement, which shares a daft, if ultimately unsatisfying, enjoyability with this film). Josh must countermand his conflicting emotions as he and Marc scour the local cruising ground for wide-eyed Paul and the errant Russian; the landlord and the husband are the oddest of odd couples whom the film isn’t above mining for a bit of welcome humour (‘Put it awaaaaaay’, Josh admonishes when Marc has a needed-a-wee/accidental-cottaging muddle, purring at him with all the camp resonance of a late era Joan Crawford). The plot’s denouement, which ties back to Marc and Tom’s original visit is, if slightly guessable, clever and also seems to throw the newlyweds’ earlier acrimony into sharp relief. Like Josh himself, B&B may be initially difficult to warm to, but when it reveals its hidden depths, there’s plenty to admire.



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