by Douglas Messerli
Tyler Rabinowitz (screenwriter and director) See You Soon / 2020 [16 minutes]
The 16-minute short by Tyler Rabinowitz is so lovingly filmed and expressive that it feels almost like a feature work. See You Soon released in 2020 is definitely a product of a new age when young boys do not need to explore the halls of their local high school or—since the central figures of this film are slightly older—check out the local gay bars. All you need is a computer and a good internet dating application.
Before the film even begins the two beautiful young men of this film (James Cusati-Moyer and Jonny Beauchamp) have already been communicating for some time and obviously have become interested in and attracted to one another; perhaps they have even had mutual on-line sex. All they really need now is to meet, which—since they one is a student and the other working without a lot of money and they live on opposite shores of the US, Los Angeles and New York—is not an easy undertaking.
The movie begins a few hours before Vincent’s flight to New York, both impatient to actually come into physical contact with one another. And one of the first narratives that the New Yorker tells his California friend is how when you get a new fish for your aquarium you need to keep it in the plastic bag for a while to allow him to acclimate to his new world, which he suggests is a bit like them, recognizing and knowing something about each other, but still uneasy in the actual physical presence of the other.
Walking the streets they play games with one another in order to discover their similarities and differences, uncovering that the Californian had gone to bible school while his New Yorker friend had gone to Hebrew school. An open piano on the street reveals that the New York boy is an accomplished pianist—at least as it applies to one piece he has learned of Chopin’s. Yet, by playing a piece with two hands, they discover that the California boy can also play the piano sufficiently to reveal he has had lessons. So even their meager musical accomplishments reveals that they are a good pairing.
When the Californian later teases his friend for making him take pictures in Times Square, the New Yorker reacts, I was just being a good host. It’s like the Grand Canyon (something neither of them has ever seen), you’ve got to see it at least once. And suddenly, both lying on a hammock, they each admit that they have “never done anything like this before,” which is a bit hard to interpret. Do they mean that neither of them has previously actually had sex with another guy, or simply not had sex with someone they had not previous known in the flesh?
It’s hard to imagine either of them as virgin gay boys, and with the camera revealing their deeply erotic sexual activities soon after it certainly appears these boys are fairly experienced. Perhaps they have just gained knowledge through their desire to explore each other’s bodies. In a sense Rabinowitz packs his quarter of an hour work with a sense of their discovery of each other’s minds and bodies, allowing us to comprehend their attraction and, before the film is finished, their deep love for one another.
As they engage in sex, however, we discover in their discussion of who will “bottom” or “top” that indeed they have had sexual experience. Their sense of virginity relates to the way they have encountered one another, not to their previous sexual activities. It is the strangeness of having met “virtually” rather than “actually” that makes them a bit shy at first, establishing perhaps that the popular “truism” that young people cannot differentiate between the computer world and reality does not represent the facts. Moreover, when the director determines to present the usual “top” permitting himself to be fucked, he dismisses another popular myth that couples generally break down easily into “tops” or “bottoms” instead of being naturally versatile. These boys surely know that they both have an anus and that it feels good to make use of it.
If after the after sex scenes a few cinematic images of them running on he beach and jumping into one another’s arms are perhaps too similar to a hundred other short films depicting young boys in love and a dozen Hallmark images of youthful pleasure, we can forgive Rabinowitz for having just previously so effectively created a mature erotically-charged gay sexual scene.
But now comes the difficult part. Like a soon-to-be-engaged couple they take a bicycle tour of the neighborhood, the homeboy pointing out his favorite New York brownstones; but the time for leaving is soon approaching and, after hearing that the change fee for the trip back to Los Angeles would be $200, it is impossible, it becomes clear, for either to remain in paradise for much longer.
The two recognize as one of them puts it, that they have become “attached” and that their situation in which one is at school and other working will be hard for them to get together again, that their sudden recognition of a perfect relationship is all for naught. As they both try to reassure each other that they are both “okay,” we recognize their pain and realize just how unhappy these young men are and can imagine the emptiness they will surely face.
In this film there is no difficulty of coming to terms with their sexuality, no impossibility of finding the right person, no intrusion of family or friends, no bullies haunting their hallways. Everything is perfect except for the realities of everyday life: being born in and tied to a certain place, needing to support oneself and develop one’s life, and the lack of financial support to make other choices—these are the real things that often stand in the way of love.
The New York boy asks the “shot in the dark”-question: “Would you every consider moving here?” The LA boy answers him in kind: “Would you ever consider moving to LA?” Their mutual silence says everything. “Yeah, this is scary,” says the California boy. “This is scary.”
There is no way to simply “chill,” as the New Yorker oddly suggests—isn’t that what everybody imagines a California boy might say?—they can only hug and comfort one another for their imminent loss.
No one in this film risks losing touch with family or friends, there is no threat of being forced to give up gay life, of dying of AIDS, or of being destroyed by homophobic others. This is a film without a happy ending simply because of the most ordinary of facts. And the tears the two of them and their sympathetic audience shed at film’s end are genuine, an expression of the knowledge that there is no way to truly develop a relationship at opposite ends of a continent, even with the wonders of the internet.
Los Angeles, June 19, 2021
Reprinted from My Queer Cinema blog and World Cinema Review (June 2021).