In the interests of doing other things with my free time, this review will be written in approximately thirty minutes. Timer starts…now!
A gentle romantic comedy with queer protagonists with a happy ending! That’s how low the bar is!
Starring Jake Borelli, Niko Terho, Britt Baron, Karamo Brown, and Peter Paige
One day – one shining, glittering, hopefully not too distant day – the genre “queer rom com” simply won’t exist. Alas, one cannot review this film without acknowledging its historical context.
In the current film climate – though it may be tempting to claim that there are gay characters abounding, it simply just isn’t the case. Even though many successful films in the past few years have either been led by women, or by BAME performers, the vast majority of films still feature straight, white men in the leading roles. Even films which are centred around the queer experience tend to end in tragedy – think Brokeback Mountain or Call Me By Your Name – or being ingrained within familial drama, such as Happiest Season, which was overly preoccupied with Abby and Harper being forced to hide their relationship from Harper’s family as she was not yet out.
That isn’t to say, of course, that there are no LGBTQ+ films with happy endings. God’s Own Country and Love, Simon both feature happy endings, though Love, Simon is, despite being the first mainstream queer film, a horrendously straight-washed version of the queer experience and – again – is tied up in the trauma of coming out to your family.
Where The Thing About Harry succeeds is by embracing the tropes and the familiarity of the romantic comedy genre without erasing either main character’s queer identity. It does not merely play out as a “straight” rom com with the sexes changed and no other difference. The queerness of the characters is essential to the plot and to their self expression and identity.
Romantic comedies as a genre are oft-derided. Truthfully, most of them follow the same structure and it is incredibly rare that one is going to set the world on fire with the depths of their storytelling. However, while straight couples have had films like Notting Hill, Pretty Woman or When Harry Met Sally for years, with all manner of romantic speeches thrown around which audiences can identify with, the queer community is running a little behind. So to have a story like The Thing About Harry is an achievement in and of itself, even if it is never going to amount to anything other than a sleepy Sunday afternoon watch on account of its unchallenging content.
The Thing About Harry tells the story of Sam Baselli (Jake Borelli), as he falls in love with old schoolmate Harry Turpin (Niko Terho). Originally citing him as one of his tormentors, Sam’s views of Harry change on a road trip back home, when Harry reveals that he is pansexual. Over the course of the next few years, as they undergo significant life changes, their relationship grows and evolves. Any discerning viewer can doubtless work out where the plot will end up: the friends-to-lovers trope is well-worn for a reason, after all, but that doesn’t stop the journey there being less captivating.
Critically, both Sam and Harry feel like real people. Neither of them are reduced to merely their sexuality. Both of their sexualities are normalised and their other character traits are shown to rule them far more than their queerness, whilst also managing to celebrate their queer identity. Both Sam and Harry are flawed in different ways, and part of the frustration of the film comes from seeing how the pair almost start a relationship at multiple points during the film, but contrivances of communication or circumstance seek to push them apart.
While Sam is rigid, stubborn, judgemental but also woefully romantic, Harry is far more lackadaisical. He is ruled by his heart far more than his head, is incredibly self assured and more than generous with his physical affection.
This dynamic would have no hopes whatsoever of working, however, if it weren’t for the supreme chemistry between the two leads. The flirty, easy banter that the pair share doesn’t necessarily read on the page, but Borelli and Terho manage to sell these moments and the legitimacy of the relationship.
Ultimately, the thing about The Thing About Harry is that it makes you invest in the relationship of these two characters: not just two queer characters, which, of course, is massively important within this film, but it is a romantic comedy for queer love which is actually good. While hardly reinventing the wheel, and using a whole host of familiar trappings of the genre, The Thing About Harry will make even the most stone-hearted teary-eyed.
The Thing About Harry is streaming now on Disney+