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Film of the week The Gaysian crying game

The Star's critic MARIA DUARTE recommends a refreshing perspective on sexual fluidity and the cultural pressures on Indian gay men

Unicorns (15)
Directed by Sally El Hosaini & James Krishna Floyd

 

 
EIGHT years in the making, this powerful and uplifting queer romantic drama provides a refreshing perspective on sexual fluidity and identity, racial culture and the little known “gaysian” scene in Britain. 
 
Co-directed by Sally El Hosaini and actor turned director James Krishna Floyd, who also wrote it, this is a moving and tender love story between two people from completely different worlds.
 
Luke (Ben Hardy) is a mechanic from Essex, a single father and a red-blooded alpha male while Aysha (Jason Patel) is a British Indian drag queen by night and Ashiq, a closeted gay man who works in a retail shop by day. He keeps his sexuality hidden at all costs from his traditional Indian Muslim family.
 
At first Luke is attracted to Aysha, who is flirty and fun and totally captivating, but when he discovers she isn’t a woman he is completely appalled and walks away. However Aysha seeks him out and hires him to drive her to her dance gigs. As he slowly gets to know her, along with her friends and the gaysian world, a friendship and a closeness blossoms. 
 
“Would you have had sex with me the night we met if I was a woman?” Aysha asks Luke. He replies: “Yes but you’re not!” which is crushing. 
 
Hardy and newcomer Patel, in his first ever film role, are extraordinary together. Their on-screen chemistry is off the charts as they give nuanced and mesmerising performances. You see their characters slowly falling for each other. It is messy and complicated, but it is about two people connecting regardless of their gender or sexuality. Much like in God’s Own Country. 
 
Aysha tells Luke how people like her either disappear abroad (where they are married off) or end up dead. She reveals she receives death threats all the time which she ignores but when she is viciously assaulted in a shocking attack it upends her universe. She reverts back to male pronouns and Ashiq, killing off his larger-than-life alter ego, rejecting Luke and seeking solace in his family and his religious faith, which is heartbreaking. 
 
The film subverts society’s ideas of gender identity as it also explores the pressures of religion and cultural identity on Indian gay men in this thought-provoking drama which is driven by two bold and brave performances. 

In cinemas July 5

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