In From the Side
The rain hammers down and bodies clatter together on a mud-churned field as two rugby teams go head-to-head. Defeat for Mark (Alexander Lincoln) and his South London Stags gay rugby club team means only one thing: a drunken night on the town to numb the pain. But with intoxication comes trouble, and for Mark, it arrives in the form of his clubmate Warren (Alexander King). At first, it is lust, but before long the pair unwittingly begin an adulterous affair – however, they must conceal their growing feelings from their teammates and partners at risk of breaking the social dynamic of the rugby club apart, destroying their own long-term relationships in the process.
In From the Side is an incredibly unique story and the film shares a similar gay-sporting confidence with only a few titles that have come before, including the likes of the 2019 French film The Shiny Shrimps and The Pass starring Russell Tovey. The dashing Lincoln, formerly a cast member of Emmerdale, leads the way and is endearing in his vulnerability as Mark. In contrast, King’s Warren bursts into every scene oozing arrogance and a sexual dominance that first leads Mark into the fling, but also eventually proves to be the couple’s downfall.
However, debutant director Matt Carter chooses to focus more on shooting Mark and Warren ripping each other’s clothes off in public bathrooms rather than developing their romantic relationship in more depth through meaningful dialogue. There is undeniably on-screen chemistry between the two men, but aside from a beautifully scenic Christmas trip to Geneva, there are few detailed bond-building moments between the two of them.
It’s also a little too long, boasting a duration of over two hours, considering you can always see where the movie is headed, as it harnesses the usual plot mechanisms and relies on the uniqueness of its themes to carry it over the try line. You are left wishing to know more about these beefy, well-kept men you are watching. What prejudices have they faced? How have they overcome adversity? How important is this gay rugby club to them? All questions that ultimately are left unanswered.
This said, the dialogue, albeit direct, is refreshingly naturalistic, and it is great to see a British film hit the screens with conversations and language that is actually accurate and relatable. Carter also does a fabulous job on the cinematography, with his artistic vision there for all to see, and he successfully introduces a sense of melodrama into the action on the rugby pitch, a stellar achievement given the project’s low budget.
In From the Side is released in select cinemas on 16th September 2022.
Watch the trailer for In From the Side here: