Losing a lover for whatever reason (infidelity, “growing apart”, death and disease) is almost always painful—typically commensurate with the degree of real togetherness during the partnering period.
It’s often been said, “You can never go back”, usually because people change when they are apart: what one person thought they knew and loved about another has been reshaped at best or—using the breakup as the catalyst—completely redone by reunion time.
Director Nick Corporon (who along with Justin Bailey, Collin Brazie and Gareth Dutton wrote the story) has created a virtual two-hander where Jonathan, a well-to-do, middle-aged man (Tuc Watkins grows into the role and eventually finds a fine sense of rhythm and tone), hires a San Francisco hustler (after at least one audition) to become his ex, Brandon. It’s a full-bore roleplay assignment that Devon Graye delivers with just the right mix of playfulness and curiosity as to who his persona really was.
But this is no roll in the hay, pay and be gone. Jonathan is wanting to recreate a road trip from years’ past and drive all the way to the Grand Canyon with his rent boy—a journey that turned out to be the real Brandon’s last with his elder paramour.
To keep the memories flowing, Jonathan provides Brandon’s surrogate with cologne, wardrobe and pieces of the backstory (“Your favourite book is Brave New World”—somewhat far removed from the imposter with benefits’ Carrie).
The other vital prop is Jonathan’s ever-present Polaroid camera (oddly missing in a post-restaurant embrace), dutifully reshooting images-past in the same locales as the original trek.
Binding much of the narrative together are Mike Meehan’s supportive, original score and a selection of songs whose lyrics—at times—are a tad too “on the nose” (“When it all comes crashing down on you”; “This is our life”).
The few sex scenes are models of discretion and somewhat Victorian given the riot of flesh available virtually anywhere, anytime these days; nonetheless, there are a few moments of passion and tenderness, particularly as the masks come off and the two men begin to see each other as they are, not who they purport to be.
The inevitable bust-ups and reconciliations are fairly predictable with the odd unexpected wrinkle (who knew muggings could happen in the middle of nowhere?) woven in to keep the back-together clichés to the bare minimum.
Almost at the end of the road, neither Brandon old or “new” can be fixed, but most certainly the point of view from both travelling companions has improved for the better, allowing fresh, unencumbered journeys to begin. JWR