Review: Rugby romance ‘In From the Side’ wrestles with deeper issues

For a film that was funded via Kickstarter and made for around $60,000, the romantic sports drama “In From the Side” is an especially well shot, acted and edited effort.

It’s a sexy, often engaging story of love and lust on and off the pitch as two players from a gay rugby team, the South London Stags, fall in love amid thorny circumstances.

But for all its advantages, including a refreshing lack of clichés, the film, from multi-tasking British filmmaker Matt Carter (he directed, shot, edited, scored, co-wrote, co-wrote the costumes and co-wrote with Adam Silver), insufficiently explores its central theme. of romantic commitment, or lack thereof, and it’s a bit groundbreaking.

This flaw tends to keep us away from main characters Mark (Alexander Lincoln) and Warren (Alexander King), B- and A-level players respectively for the two Stags, who land in bed after a drunken, flirtatious night. at a local bar celebrating the first game of the season.

The next morning, despite the boys’ fierce attraction, when Warren reveals that he has a boyfriend, Stags member John (Peter McPherson), it seems Mark and Warren will be one and be done. The fact that Mark also has a long-time partner, Richard (Alex Hammond), a wealthy, frequently traveling businessman, adds to the complications, even if Mark and Richard are in an open relationship (with some rules made). to break).

Still, Mark and Warren find they can’t resist and begin a secret affair. It’s an emotional and romantic rollercoaster ride that the boys manage to keep secret, through evasion and deception, until the inevitable happens and the largely unsentimental script turns into melodrama.

Unfortunately, without a deeper, more nuanced look at monogamy, cheating, and loyalty—particularly the slippery slope that can result when a couple sanctions outside flirtations—it’s hard to root for Mark and Warren as much as we’d like.

The attractive couple apparently have the trappings to make their partner work. But there is an internal disconnect that prevents them from romantic success: What is it that really attracts them to each other as people, as potential soul mates? And despite their excuses, really, why can’t they just leave their respective boyfriends behind? We also don’t see any real chemistry or connection between Mark and Richard, let alone Warren and John, to justify the weight of any of those relationships.

Also, all too often, Mark is surly or self-righteous towards Warren, as if Player A is the only one of them mishandling his affair. He should make Mark, good looks aside, a less attractive love object for Warren, who nonetheless remains in love, and more and more.

A Christmas trip, in which Mark and Warren, cheating on their partners, set off together for Switzerland to visit Mark’s parents (Mary Lincoln, Nigel Fairs), makes for a scenic and sometimes poignant interlude. But the segment drags on too long for its own good, just like the movie as a whole. (A serious tweak throughout could have made the movie livelier and more propulsive.)

Also shown are a handful of cursory snapshots involving other Stags members such as Mark’s needy and perhaps alcoholic friend Henry (Will Hearle); good-natured Pinky (Pearse Egan); support team captain Jimmy (Christopher Sherwood); and the sarcastic Gareth (Carl Loughlin).

More attention is being paid to the team’s financial woes that are forcing their owners to consider disbanding the B-team. This adds pressure to the Mark and Warren issue: will their cross-tier union sink the Stags completely?

But it’s a bit of a fuzzy presented notion, and for all the consternation surrounding it, it feels too “inside baseball,” er, rugby, to impact the boys’ romance in a relatable enough way.

As for rugby itself, Carter presents the game as it is, without much guidance for the ignorant, though anyone familiar with American football will get the gist of it. No matter, Carter vividly captures one of his country’s greatest sports in all its raucous, muddy, muddy glory, frequently using slow motion for super expressive effect.

He also depicts that overwhelming first burst of passion between new lovers with sheer vigour, and films Mark and Warren’s many dates with equal parts respect and steam. Lincoln and King definitely bring the heat as well.

Kudos also to the superbly moving, 1980s-esque closing title song “By Your Side,” written and performed by, you guessed it, Carter.

As for the film’s cryptic title, it refers to an illegal rugby move but, in Carter’s words, “it also has a double meaning of a third person coming in and disrupting a situation or relationship from an unexpected place.” It will be interesting to see what this capable filmmaker does next time with hopefully a bigger budget and some more objective voices to help guide his choices.

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