What would you do with a second chance at the one who got away?
This is the question filmmaker Tim Kirkman set out to answer in his feature film Lazy Eye, the story of a man whose long-lost lover suddenly reenters his life fifteen years after deserting him.
The audience is introduced to Dean, the film’s main character, a man whose childhood optical problems are worsening as he approaches middle age. His largely solitary life as a bored graphic designer is disrupted when Alex, his former boyfriend, randomly emails him after years of absence. The film then takes off in its steady, fraught trajectory as the two meet up at Dean’s vacation home in Joshua Tree, immediately rekindling the sexual connection they shared in their twenties.
But then the film becomes remarkable. Rather than a simplistic story about lovers reunited and living happily ever after, the two are left on the drying sheets realizing they don’t know each other anymore, they’re former lovers are buried under fifteen years of history, and they must reconcile the past while determining if they have a future.
“Sometimes I think if I had just done what I was supposed to, I’d see the whole world differently.” This line is benignly delivered by Dean (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, Our Idiot Brother, Wallflowers), who is referring to the fact that if he had just done his eye exercises as a boy, he might have prevented his vision deterioration. But the statement conveys his unconscious sentiments perfectly. As Alex (Aaron Costa Ganis, Jessica Jones) reminds Dean of the young man he used to be, Dean is forced to face the choice he made to seek a life of comfort rather than that of the struggling artist and political activist he once was.
Similarly, Alex has launched himself into this confrontation with Dean, hoping to rediscover the man he used to be before he started running away from his lovers, and himself.
With a subtle script that includes plenty of metaphorical allusions—including drowning mice, packs of coyotes, and a pair of transitional lenses—Tim Kirkman wrote a compelling screenplay that somehow turns a movie about a dialogue-heavy weekend in the desert into a film that deftly and deeply strikes the core of modern gay men’s romantic relationships.
Kirkman is no novice to queer film. As the director of acclaimed LGBT films like Dear Jesse, The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, and Loggerheads, the writer, director, and partial producer of Lazy Eye has crafted another timeless story for the queer film pantheon.. But it is the intense chemistry between (and expertly authentic performances from) the two actors that makes this feature a bracing success, turning a well-developed script into an honest, enticing, thought-provoking glimpse into what can happen when you allow yourself to ask “What if we could try again?” even if the answer is terrifying.
The film is certainly a slow burn, perhaps dawdling in some parts. Reminiscent of the 2011 queer gem Weekend, this story of a quick-romp-turned-complicated-reunion relies on its dialogue, emotional conflict, and a satisfying amount of skin to keep the audience engaged. But the constant tension of indecision and surprising revelations of new information hold one’s attention long enough to grip the viewer until these unanswered questions are satisfied. Refreshingly, Lazy Eye moves us past those treasured but common gay stories about coming out and coping with the AIDS epidemic, showing us two middle-aged characters who have admitted their deepest truths to themselves and are now faced with admitting them to each other.
Moreover, the feature’s high-quality soundtrack, masterful editing, and gorgeous landscape shots make this low-budget project look expensive—a testament to the seasoned cinematographic tastes of the film’s production crew.
A stirring triumph of a film, magnetic and mature, Lazy Eye is a breath of fresh air for those who think they’ve seen all queer cinema has to offer.
See Lazy Eye at TWIST: Seattle Queer Film Festival this Wednesday 10/19 at SIFF Cinema Egyptian. Buy your tickets here!