Since his debut feature Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros), celebrated director Auraeus Solito has made a string of coming-of-age films, but his fourth, Boy, is the most unabashedly gay yet. It’s easily a romance – between a poetry student (real-life young poet Aeious Asin) and the macho dancer he desires to take out for one night (real-life young macho dancer Aries Pena). But what elevates the movie from most of its kind – the macho dancer movie, the opposite-sides-of-the-track brief encounter – is the rich telling.
When the movie opens, Aeious is the earlybird customer in a gaybar. He feels a stirring the moment a boy his age comes onstage. What follows is a romance of careful ambiguity: Gauzy sensations of attraction simmer with the practical motions of negotiation. This is a tale of first sex from the point of view of a teenager who’s smart enough to know that giving in requires a bit of detachment, but still be horny and confused. Soon, the two boys talk and make love in intricate, deepening, increasingly sensual steps.
Aeious lives alone with his Mother, and theirs is an acutely rendered relationship of affection and distance. The fish tanks he collects provide an overwhelming, ethereal glow to the household, and the way the people navigate around them is intoxicating to watch. While lesser coming-out movies rely on the shock of the turning points, in Boy, the pleasures lie in the minute revelations of emotion and simmering mood, even during its weakest moments -- such as the sometimes theatrical behaviour and the tacked-on illustration of poverty. Still, they all work together to tease the film’s tempered playfulness. Boy is an enigmatic, wonderfully unsettled picture, a thing to be savoured and discovered.
It's a brisk capsule that's over too quickly (less than 90 minutes), so what it achieves in economical strokes is impressive: Boy turns the story of a teenager’s first sexual experience into that moment when he begins to transcend his existence.