BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival: Gerontophilia

Posted: March 25, 2014

Josh Haigh is at the BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival this week, bringing us all the latest.

One of the more ‘out there’ films showing at this month’s BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival is Gerontophilia.

Love stories have been done to death in cinema, and almost every possible scenario has been covered. We’ve had enough P.S I Love You’s to know that the girl always ends up with the right boy in the end.

Thankfully, the past year has brought with it Her, an Oscar-nominated film where Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with a computer, and now another quirky love-story in the form of Gerontophilia.

It says a lot about society’s relentless obsession with youth when a film about a man falling in love with a computer elicits less of a horrified response than a film that tells the story of an 18-year-old boy falling in love with an 81-year-old man.

Our fixation with youth is so strong now that even the notion of anyone over 60 having sex is enough to turn up noses and send shivers down spines. Gerontophilia’s tale of sexual desire for the elderly is an alien concept, and one that many might at first find almost physically repulsive to even accept, let alone consider as valid.

The film tells the story of Lake, a beautiful 18-year-old boy with a growing fetish for elderly men. He happens by chance to get a job in a care-home for the elderly, and immediately begins to grow close to Melvyn, an 81-year-old artist. Their relationship develops quickly, and soon becomes sexual.

Realising that Melvyn is receiving improper care and treatment, Lake decides to rescue his new-found love from the nursing home, and take him on a road-trip across the country. Think Thelma and Louise meets a twisted Brokeback Mountain – on second thoughts, perhaps don’t.

Contemporary gay-filmmaker Bruce LaBruce is famous for delivering shocks in his films through overly sexually explicit scenes that often border on pornography. Here however, the sex between Lake and Melvyn happens entirely off screen, with the director realising that the love between an 18 and 81-year old is enough of a shock as it is.

It’s the right decision, and allows the audience to fully come terms with the relationship developing on screen, without having to deal with gratuitous sex-scenes purely for cheap-shocks on top of that.

LaBruce instead focuses on the developing emotional bond between the pair, and manages to shape a relationship on screen that feels less and less bizarre by the second, which is an astonishing achievement in itself. 

The film is beautifully shot throughout, and Walter Borden (Melvyn) brings such genuine warmth to a role that could easily have felt uncomfortable, and plain creepy at worst. Pier-Gabriel Lajoie (Lake) is a beautiful French-Canadian actor, and watching him on screen is a complete joy for anyone with a pulse. His acting occasionally comes off a little amateurish, but it feels almost fitting for his naïve 18-year-old character, and ends up feeling altogether charming.

For such a polarising concept that could easily have come across grotesque, the film is a sweet, engaging and genuinely funny love story between two men who happen to be generations apart.

If you have an open mind, and a willingness to see past your own morals and beliefs, then Gerontophilia is for you. If not, perhaps stick to a Miss Congeniality and be done with.

Read more posts by Josh Haigh here