FOREWORD: This review is going to be full of spoilers.
I happened upon the film, The Blonde One, quite by accident. I was surfing the web when I clicked on a link that took me to a writeup that was narrating which gay films in the past decade had shown the most homoerotic scenes.
The Blonde One was in the list, complete with movie stills of bare butts, penis shots and what is supposed to be cum dribbling down the hairy torso of one of the characters. So, of course, I had to find it to see it.
The Blonde One is a 2019 Argentine film, helmed by Marcus Berger, and there is everything in this tender, almost hypnotic drama that’ll make anyone who’s been around the block in the Nigerian gay community relate to its story.
Gabriel or “Gabo” (played by Gaston Re) and Juan (played by Alfonso Barón) are coworkers and new flatmates who find themselves confronting a shared physical attraction, all the while very awkwardly aware of how “gay” their situation is. Gabriel – who is nicknamed “Dummy” because of his reserved, close-mouthed nature – is the one who is invited into the flat by Juan to stay with him, even though he had a young daughter, Ornella, who is being raised by his parents while he has to live and work some distance away. (His wife had passed away when Ornella was two.)
Juan, on the other hand, is quite untethered, with a bunch of friends who routinely come over to his place to drink beer and watch TV, and relationships with the opposite sex that are casual, as more than one naked girl is seen sidling out of his bedroom on occasion. His womanizing ways is confirmed when a friend jokes, “…we have to ask him how many (women) he is seeing, not who.”
The attraction between these two men builds up in the little ways. Like the hand Juan places on Gabriel’s lap when he leans over to see something his friend is showing him on his phone. Or the sidelong glances they exchange every now and then, and the interminable pauses Juan gives whenever he finds yet another banal excuse to come over to Gabriel’s room to talk.
It becomes immediately apparent that Juan is waiting for Gabriel, and Gabriel finally makes the move. In this incredibly erotic scene is where you will give thanks to God for the invention of sweatpants. Juan has them on, and Gabriel, who is standing a breath away from him, moves his hand to flirt with the slightly bulging eggplant that is Juan’s. if you’ve ever had to seduce someone of the same sex whose mixed signals had you aching to touch them and kiss them, then you will find yourself drawn to the quiet intensity of this scene.
You know what else you’d also probably relate to? The dismissive, almost cavalier manner with which Juan begins to treat Gabriel after that first time. (Internalized homophobia, anyone?) But after the second tryst, their dynamic grows more intimate, almost boyfriend-ly. It becomes immediately apparent that the more soulful and puppy-eyed Gabriel is yearning for a relationship beyond the sex; he even breaks up with Julia, the woman who he has a strained, polite relationship with. But the apparent bisexual Juan likes to keep his options open. He even warns the needy Gabriel in a rare moment of verbal candour, “Don’t make me explain myself like you are my girlfriend.”
The thing about this movie is that repetitive as some of the scenes may seem sometimes, its magic is quiet, stirring, almost stealthy. There are no raised voices, no long-winding monologues. The strength of the narrative lies majorly in the heartfelt gazes (and men, the eyes on these guys!), the subtle scenes, and how it appears to be telling a simple story that everyone and anyone in the gay community can relate to. One of the scenes I found both so aching and maddening is where Gabriel and Juan are in the company of Juan’s friends, and these men are talking trash about the queer identity.
“…to have a lesbian daughter? I’d rather cut my balls off,” says one of them. “The thing is…weak fathers bring up queer sons.”
Gabriel and Juan do not look at each other as this conversation is going on, but you can feel their discomfort, the tenseness of the secret they are both keeping from these men – that they are lovers. You can feel this disquietude because many a time, you have had to sit in the parlour among friends or in the dining room among family members, and endure them spout homophobic opinions about the community you belong to.
There are many relatable points in this film, but one you may probably not relate with is the simple pleasure that comes from watching Gabriel come out to his ten-year-old daughter.
“Ornella, can I tell you something?” he asks after a tense moment spent contemplating what he’s about to do. “Juan was my boyfriend.”
“How?” the little girl asks.
He shrugs. “Just like that, we were a couple.”
To which the girl, with an emerging radiant smile, asks, “So why didn’t you tell me before?”
Gabriel chuckles and says, “Because I was ashamed.” And then father and daughter hug.
May we all know moments like this, when coming out to the people we care about the most ends in a laugh and a hug.
PS: As a teaser for those who intend to see this film, below is a clip of the seduction scene I earlier mentioned:
Written by Pink Panther