Boy Culture

Q. Allan Brocka’s “Boy Culture” dares to push modern gay cinema towards a level of sophistication that doesn’t require the levity of flamboyance. This is a picture that values the idea of characterization and introspection.

X (Derek Magyar) is a male escort with a severe distaste for matters of the heart. Living with Andrew (Darryl Stephens), a roommate he has feelings for, X plunges himself into work and emotional distance to keep his wits about him. His new client is Gregory (Patrick Bauchau), an older gentleman who insists on love before sexual contact, forcing X to engage a client psychologically for the first time. As X tries to navigate the troubled waters of his life, he finds his once assured grip on emotional stability is weakening, leaving him with nobody to turn to.

“Boy Culture” starts on a very unnerving note. Narrated by X, he’s not here to help guide the audience through the story, he’s here to mock us for our expectations. A bitter young man transcribing his life story to the highest bidder, X’s inner thoughts are used to provoke rather than reveal, and it’s an interesting diversion for the film. X is a burlap sack of troubles, and through this caustic bit of embittered commentary, “Culture” starts to deflect expectations and inch up on the viewer with a fresh take on the world’s oldest profession.

Adapting Matthew Rettenmund’s 1996 novel, Brocka cares deeply for these men and their troubles of the heart, and pays attention to the inner workings of each role. “Boy Culture” doesn’t dig too deeply into dramatics, but the challenges of X’s soul and steady stream of eroticism are wonderfully realized by the production; Magyar’s performance and the filmmakers working together to give X an evenhanded reason for his confusion and bitter attitude toward his profession and lifestyle.

The movie is steeped heavily in vivid pops of sexuality and long bouts of cynicism, yet “Culture” touches down in the final act to more human areas of vulnerability. As X starts to lose his faith in his friends and chances for love, “Culture” quiets down considerably to pay attention to the characters and their assorted social aches and pains. The film becomes a much more rewarding experience than ever thought before, with X’s tender breakdown of confidence leading to wonderful latter scenes of confession and reunion. “Boy Culture” dares to speak on the gay experience without the need for affectation, and it’s a rewarding and often superb viewing experience.

Rating: B+