tue 21/05/2024

DVD: Beauty | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Beauty

DVD: Beauty

Darkness at the heart of South African story of one man's gradual breakdown

An anonymous hotel room, an encounter about to go very badly wrong: 'Beauty'

There’s little beauty of any conventional kind in this tale of the hidden queer - "gay" would have associations of a very different world - life of South African patriarch François (Deon Lotz) imploding. He falls for Christian (Charlie Keegan), the 20-something son of an old friend, with violent and wrenching consequences: the closet door may be opening, but the cracks are in a deeply repressed family life.

An opening wedding shows François in all his provincial Bloemfontein status, a proud father giving away his daughter, the prosperous owner of a timber yard, a figure in the local community - yet his marriage to fragile Elena looks long stale, and emotional emptiness has pushed her into an affair. Release for François comes in an unlikely weekly fuck-club, where respectable Afrikaans family men come for casual sex with each other: “no faggots, no coloureds” is its membership rule, allowing all to preserve some sort of self-endorsing hierarchy.

It's a wide, lonely landscape, a contrast to Cape Town, to which François follows Christian, and where an easier-going sense of hedonism is in the air. François tries to sample the more openly gay environment there but ends up feeling even more excluded (it's no country for old men), and a final encounter with the young man culminates in an act of shocking violence.

It's hard to feel much for François, trapped as he is in the mindset of a past, unforgiving generation (associations with a country itself unable to change?); Lotz is silently mesmeric, his stock, brutish head nevertheless speaking vulnerability. Director Oliver Hermanus is sparing with words, and cuts music completely, except for opening and closing melancholic strains of piano. At the beginning we see François transfixed by the beauty and charm of youth - at the end he is driving downwards towards a dark and unforgiving pit.

Watch the trailer for Beauty

Release for François comes in an unlikely weekly fuck-club, where respectable Afrikaans family men come for casual sex with each other


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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