THE THING ABOUT HARRY

★★★

A GAY TALE FOR THE ROMANTICS

MARDI GRAS FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
By Charlie David Page
23rd January 2021

Two young guys, former school rivals. One car trip. One big secret. If it has a little bit of a TV movie-sounding premise... that's because it is. But don't let that put you off! Despite a plot that's more basic than an episode of 'Grey's Anatomy', 'The Thing About Harry' is a downright adorable experience - and that's entirely down to the success of its cast.

Recently-single Sam (Jake Borelli, TV's 'Gray's Anatomy') is looking forward to a trip home to see his friends for their engagement party... until they ask him if his high school bully Harry (Niko Terho, 'Sno Babies') can ride shotgun. After a rough start, Sam is surprised to find himself enjoying the trip - and even more surprised when he learns that Harry is pansexual. What ensues is the most will-they-won't-they storyline in human existence - but (and it's no spoiler whatsoever) we all know they definitely will.

Now stay with me here. This TV movie was made for Freeform, a basic cable channel in the United States aimed at younger generational viewers that's a part of ABC, which is in turn owned by Disney. The channel mostly consists of reruns of 'The Simpsons' and made-for-TV original movies. In the wake of 'Love, Simon', it's no surprise that this is the kind of fodder Freeform would be trying to pull off.

'THE THING ABOUT HARRY' SNEAK PEEK

The bizarre thing is, they kind of do. You can predict the story from a mile off - but as they say, it's about journey, not the destination. The trip you'll embark on is surprisingly heartwarming and - dare I say it - a little tearjerking. It's not a sexual attraction, nor is sex at the forefront of their interaction - which is a pleasant change to many queer films - rather, their magnetism comes from a friendship that sparks and draws the two together. There's a surprising warmth between Borelli and Terho, which is unexpected given the lack of development the script affords their characters.

While you're rooting for these two to get together, the characters are, at times, a little hard to feel empathy for. Yes, Sam is recently single, but his attitude to others comes off a little... snotty at times. But it's certainly Harry's likability that's hardest to embrace; flitting from partner to partner makes you want to yell at the screen, "Sam, get out of there! This guy is bad news!" We're supposed to presume that he puts his promiscuity aside with his grand gesture in the film's final act, but it still seems like the movie is sending out the wrong message. Mess with other people's hearts and you'll still be fine? Settle for the good-looking guy without morals? For a queer audience - especially a younger one - it lacks the integrity the romance genre typically exudes; the knight in shining armour is sorely lacking.

You can predict the story from a mile off, but as they say, it's about journey, not the destination. The trip you'll embark on is surprisingly heartwarming and - dare I say it - a little tearjerking.

The film comes to us from director and co-writer Peter Paige, who played Emmett Honeycutt in the U.S. version of 'Queer as Folk'. Although the film is portraying a same-sex love story, it's refreshing that that's not integral to the plot; there's no coming out, no angst, no trauma. The blurred lines of sexuality - particularly among younger generations - was also something different to what we've seen across films and TV shows with queer characters. "There was a study recently that over 50 per cent of high school students identify as something other than straight," Paige told Variety. "The odds that two young, queer men under 25 both identify as gay feels slim to me in this generation."

Don't come into this looking for stellar production values or a revelatory tale. 'The Thing About Harry's' strong suit is the dynamo chemistry between its two leads, who breathe life into otherwise uninhabited characters. It's a film for those who have love in their hearts, or those who need a good dose of it. Just be prepared for some silliness and schmaltz along the way.

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