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Falling for Fabio

Falling for Fabio

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Romeos opens this year's Queer Film Fest
I like happy endings. Not exclusively, but frequently. I like to dream that falling for the guy who’s all wrong for you in a totally unsustainable situation can — against all odds — work out, and you can live happily ever after.

Maybe even on a houseboat in Seattle.

I blame Nora Ephron. God rest her soul.

And — spoiler alert — that’s one of the reasons I like this film.

Romeos is the story of a young transgender man, Lukas (Rick Okon), who arrives in Cologne to begin his civilian service with a sense of small-town wonder in his eyes and enough intramuscularly injected testosterone in his veins to power an Olympic rowing team.

Despite his undaunted efforts to pass, a bureaucratic snafu lands him in the women’s dorm, and his already peaking stress level skyrockets.

Enter, to the rescue, his lesbian BFF. Ine (Liv Lisa Fries) sweeps Lukas into an exciting nightlife of house parties, new friends and his first flirtation with the voracious appetite of Fabio (Maximilian Befort).

Ine eventually gets sidelined as Lukas’s turbulent relationship builds with Fabio, the man he simultaneously longs to be and longs to be with.

You might sense where this is heading. But — spoiler alert — the film’s predictability is part of its charm. I don’t mind recognizing the story if the storytelling is absorbing.

Director Sabine Bernardi’s screenplay never gets mired in exposition. There’s a rich history between Lukas and Ine, but they never tell us about it — they show us. Okon and Fries convey a convincing shorthand of words and gestures that fills in all the blanks. A shared shrug between them speaks lucidly of forgiveness, love and trust.

Throughout the film Okon’s portrayal is unsentimental and honest. We might be pulling for Lukas, but we never pity him.

Fries fills Ine with a simmering irony bravely veiling the vulnerability that is never far away.

And for his part, Befort plays the swaggering alpha male with such rooted conviction that he prevents the role from devolving into nothing more than sex on a stick, as Fabio is described.

Ultimately, Romeos comes very close to suggesting that the love of a good man — or any man, really — is the answer. While this may be problematic for some, I say why not give the queer hero the fairy-tale ending he’s worked so hard for?
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