Sunday, August 1, 2021

KTX: Review of GAMEBOYS: THE MOVIE: Confronting Critics

August 1, 2021



In May 2020, a Filipino BL ("boys love") series entitled "Gameboys" written by Ash Malanum and directed by Ivan Andrew Payawal premiered on YouTube. Trapped in their homes during the Covid-19 pandemic, two young men, Gavreel Alarcon and Cairo Lazaro, became friends while playing online games and eventually developed a romantic relationship, albeit remote. The series was a success, running for 13 episodes up to September 2020, launching a trend for more Filipino BL series to be produced last year.

This movie version picked up where the series left off. Cairo (Elijah Canlas) is staying in Gavreel's (Kokoy de Santos) house temporarily before he goes back to his home province for his family obligations. Meanwhile, Gav had been avoiding calls from an aunt who wanted him to go live with her in New York. Two other boys (who were also in the original series), Gavreel's ex boyfriend Terrence (Kyle Velino) and Cairo's childhood friend Wesley (Miggy Jimenez), also show up in the house and also hook up. 

While the original series already showcased the acting talents of Elijah Canlas and Kokoy de Santos and this film pushed these talents further to their fullest potentials. With the undeniable chemistry between them, they do very well in the cute romantic scenes, but they do even better in the heavier dramatic scenes. Adriana So as Gavreel's ex-girlfriend Pearl is a welcome presence for her pretty face and bubbly personality that certainly livened up the screen whenever she's around. 

The idyllic days in Gavreel's house was thrown into disarray with the unexpected visit of Gavreel's distant relative Tita Susan (Angie Castrence). Her antiquated ultra-conservative views about the boys' relationship shook up the peace of the household, and inevitably led to a serious confrontation. I can imagine this very scene being played out in homes whenever a boy comes out to his elders. This single intense scene was the heart and highlight of the whole film, elevating it above the shallow "kilig" frivolity BL may be known for.

In the original series, since the whole show was set up like online chats, the treatment of romance aspect between Cairo and Gavreel was very light-hearted and innocuous. This cute approach gained it a lot of fans from different demographics. However, since the boys were now living together in one house, actual sexual contact was inevitable. While this is celebrated by the LGBTQ, these sensual scenes, even when tastefully shot, may still shock audiences of inadequate understanding or acceptance of these sensitive gender issues. 

While watching the series can make you appreciate the full development of Gavreel and Cairo's relationship, this movie can stand pretty much on its own. 7/10. 



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