Brian Sheppard in Beautiful Something (Ariztical Entertainment)

Brian Sheppard in Beautiful Something (Ariztical Entertainment)

There are certain tropes that have come to be associated with gay independent films over the past 20 years or so: bad acting, graphic sex, usually a cameo by some diva from the ’80s, and a vapid plot that only goes as deep as “finding the right man.” Most gay films are forgettable, but every once in a while there are the rare gems that are the exception to the rule. Beautiful Something is one of them.

Set over the course of one night in Philadelphia, writer/director Joseph Graham’s film tells the stories of four gay men: Brian, Jim, Bob, and Drew. First we meet Brian, a struggling poet who is so needy he may actually be incapable of having a stable relationship with anyone. We see him hook up first with a closeted young man, who bolts after their brief encounter. Brian then pays a visit to his straight former college roommate’s house by entering through the bedroom window and confronting him about their past fling.

Jim, a strikingly good-looking young man, is living with a slightly older, famous sculptor named Drew (Colman Domingo). On this night, Jim decides to tell Drew he is leaving him to move to New York to pursue his acting career, believing Drew sees him as simply a boy toy. Jim sets off on a meaningless sex bender, hoping he can hump away his feelings for Drew. After a brief encounter with Brian that doesn’t end well, Jim meets up with Bob, an older, rich man taking a joyride in a limousine, looking for someone to drink whiskey and role-play with him.

The intensely intimate film has a sense of poetry and contemplativeness in its nighttime photography of Philadelphia. Its characters are not just likable because they are smart but because they are searching, and we see them find the some of the wisdom they have been looking for. It’s refreshing, especially when so many gay movies are preoccupied with the reaction in the viewers’ pants rather than in their brains.

Written and Directed by Joseph Graham
Produced by Kelly A. Burkhardt
Released by Ariztical Entertainment
USA. 97 min. Not rated
With Brian Sheppard, Zack Ryan, Colman Domingo, John Lescault, and Matthew Rios