Film Review: LEATHER–Whips and Chains and a Lack of Chemistry

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Breaking Glass’ Leather is an unconventional story of reconnecting with one’s past to find a future. When Andrew (Andrew Glaszek) learns that his estranged father has passed away, he asks his boyfriend Kyle (Jeremy Neal) to return home with him to clean up the house and make it vacation ready. Unexpectedly, the couple find Andrew’s childhood friend, Birch (Chris Graham) is living there and was an employee and companion of his father in his final years. As they navigate the strange situation they find themselves, the chemistry amongst the three men shift and change, revealing feelings and past desires not explored in the past.

The title of the film references Birch and Andrew’s father’s trade of crafting clothing and footwear out of leather. A smart title, albeit somewhat misleading for those seeking something slightly more risqué out of a film called Leather. Still, Birch spends much of the film in a craftsman’s apron and is attractive enough to pull it off, so the viewer isn’t completely left hanging.

Sounds pretty good, right? Unfortunately the bones of the story were not nearly enough to make this film a good one. In fact, it was barely watchable. Leaden delivery, unconvincing chemistry, and slow progression are just some of the problems plaguing the film. Familiar plot devices are lazily placed atop this potentially fascinating story, castrating the emotional ties and sexual undertones. What we are left with are strong character ideas reduced to stereotypes to make the story progress easier.

Andrew’s boyfriend, Kyle, is predictably vapid and “New York” and lacking in the easy sexual appeal that Birch possesses. More understandable to cheat on someone it seems impossible to like in the first place.

Andrew is histrionically bitter regarding his father, but is in equal turns remorseful. This way he can be angry and without meaning it, and appear forsaken by his late father without explanation. But when he is given a few stray details of his father’s last days by Birch, he becomes equally inexplicable in his remorse and sadness over his lost father.

Rounding out the trio is Birch. Strong and sexy, he is unnaturally removed from society and modern life, which is, of course, meant to make him appear mysterious and significant. Instead he is presented as being judgmental and unintelligent, which are not the same.

The film uses these stereotypes to weave an easy path to Andrew and Birch hooking up. But without the proper emotional heft and development, there is little excitement in it. Outside of stray hints at fishing trips and hikes, there is nothing to suggest that Andrew would be enticed by the more simplistic life that Birch offers.

I don’t doubt that Leather has its place in current gay cinema, nor that it didn’t deserve a better production than what it received. Any exploration of gay life outside of the one-sided metropolitan love story that most gay films offer should be commended and encouraged.

However, as the mountain of mediocre gay cinema grows taller and the number of quality, heartfelt films remain pitifully small, I have found much harder to see through the poor work and enjoy the story beneath. Breaking Glass may do better to focus on fewer, more accomplished films than the myriad mediocrity it sometimes produces. Unfortunately, Leather belongs in the latter category.

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