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'Cal' Review: Love in unexpected places



Can one truly ever go back home again? It's hard enough going back to your childhood stomping grounds where everything has changed -- especially if you're coming home to a deathly ill mother who disowned you and a house in shambles. "Cal" explores the concept of going back home again to a place where you never fit in -- and does so brilliantly

Cal Movie Poster
Canteen Outlaws

"Cal", the follow-up to the 2009 film, "Shank," is a film about Cal -- a young gay man who comes back home to Britain after hearing his mother has fallen seriously ill. His old neighborhood Bristol is in turmoil due to poverty and unemployment.

The setting is dark and gritty with rioting and crime always looming in the background. When night time falls the streets are in mayhem with the youth claiming the streets as the police lose control. This sense of danger and unrest set the theme for the entire film with you never knowing what will happen next.

Even Cal himself doesn't know what will happen next. Jobless and having to cope with a mother who is about to die you can see the hopelessness is heavy in his eyes.

Eventually he meets another young gay man Jason, who has a plethora of his own problems -- including a violent drug dealing pimp. Friendship ensues as they spend more time together trying to scrape by and stay alive. A steamy romance between them also blossoms in the desperate, dark times.

The relationship between Cal and Jason is heartwarming and at most times very touching. They're both two damaged people trying to make the best out of the cards life dealt them. They're underdogs in the world and you can't help but root for them.

On the other side of the spectrum the relationship between Cal and his mother is heartbreaking. His mother truly never accepted his lifestyle and even goes so far as to call him derogative slang words. Not until the ending do we see how their relationship concludes.

The cinematography is eerily beautiful. During the day the charm of a British city fills the air but when night comes all hell breaks loose. That feeling of anarchy is always present and makes Cal's homecoming even less welcoming.

The wardrobe is even worth noting as Cal's hoodie and Jason's furry hat almost become synonymous with both characters. They're extensions of who they are -- Cal always tries to hide his emotions while Jason seems more upbeat and open.

The problem with the movie is the pacing of events. Everything feels rushed and there are obvious plot holes. This is actually the complete opposite of Canteen Outlaw's other film "Hawaii" (read the review here), which felt sluggish in pace. Things felt underdeveloped and unexplained but could mostly be overlooked because everything else just felt right.

Another issue is with the flip-floppy acting. In some scenes Cal [Wayne Virgo] seems entirely unbelievable. In a moment of heat and anger Cal slams his hand against a wall but it just feels very forced. In contrast to that, the scenes with Cal and his mother are very well done. There just isn't continuity with the level of acting.

Though not a spectacularly ground-breaking movie, "Cal" is an excellent flick about acceptance and love and shouldn't be overlooked by any fans of drama or LGBT films. The climactic ending will keep the audience guessing on how it will all end but until then, one should experience the film instead of reading spoilers online. Alright Bruv?

Available February 18th on DVD & VOD via Canteen Outlaws

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