1. IN FROM THE SIDE (2022)
Directed by Matt Carter
Where To Watch: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video
If anybody has watched this film already, they may be surprised to see it mentioned on this list. For anyone that hasn’t, you should know that the main romance depicted is an affair on both sides. Mark and Warren’s illicit affair tears apart the trust that each man has with his long-term partner. Viewing this film should come with the disclaimer that you will most likely spend your time frustrated, confused and, mostly, annoyed.
Yet, the best part of the film is its depiction of friendship, as well as its defiant rebuttal of stereotypes. Most of our characters are queer, and almost all play for the semi-professional rugby club the South London Stags. Intermittently between romantic scenes with Mark and Warren, the film displays moments of true love between teammates, on and off the pitch. Despite the film’s A-plot, viewers will look back on the project and remember the bonds formed within the B-team.
Simultaneously safe and salacious, the message of the movie seems to be that while romances come and go, chosen family is forever. Who knows, maybe you will end up rooting for Mark and Warren, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll click ‘play’ on the romance, but you’ll definitely stick around to see the deviously delightful dynamics at play between Mark, Henry, Pinky - and yes, even Gareth.
2. THE HALF OF IT (2020)
Directed by Alice Wu
Where To Watch: Netflix
More light-hearted than the other selections on our list, this comedy-drama is set in the too-well-known grounds of the American high school. While, yes, it does play on established tropes of teen romance, such as the love letter, the love triangle (weirdly, kind of?) and unrequited love, there is so much more to it!
Ellie Chu is our lead in this one, an extremely intelligent, impressively entrepreneurial senior who has many talents, but not many friends. After agreeing to help the stubbornly sweet Paul to win over the girl he’s in love with - who he’s never even spoken to - the appropriate shenanigans unfold. Spoiler alert: Ellie falls in love with her too, but for real.
It's not entirely clear who, or what, you’re supposed to root for, a point that the film communicates immediately. Ellie’s narration informs us that nobody gets their happy ending. Still, be sure to watch on. In a film where the romance is meticulous, meaningful and murky, there is so much love. For one, the love between Ellie and her father is showcased, and at the same time the film explores the struggles that the family has had to face as first-generation immigrants from China.
Funny and fun (that’s a reference, right there), the film is also witty and sad and pessimistic and realistic and boldly optimistic. All at once. That should be enough to convince you. Go. Watch it.
3. COBALT BLUE (2022)
Directed by Sachin Kundalkar
Where To Watch: Netflix
Taking place in Fort Kochi, Kerala, in 1996, the Hindi-language film explores a queer romance through the creative lenses of photography, art and literature. This interdisciplinary approach lends to the aesthetics of the project, which boasts beautiful cinematography.
Tanay, a student and aspiring novelist, is our lead. Quickly, Tanay makes clear his intentions to have his own space in the spare room of the house, though his plans are thwarted with the arrival of a paying guest. Proving popular, the renter inspires feelings from more than one family member, creating much conflict as the project progresses. By the end, there is a feeling of bittersweet completeness, as Tanay’s coming-of-age story is resolved.
There is so much to unpack with this film, and viewers may even benefit from a second watch. If deep, philosophical thinking is your thing, then give this a go. Warning: it could cause an existential crisis.Holistically, the film covers more than just the romance plot, with sensitive topics like gay rights, arranged marriage and economic uncertainty interwoven throughout. As such, viewers would be advised to proceed with discretion.
Written by Kian Kingsley, It Gets Better UK, volunteer