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Watchlist Review: Hotter Up Close


On the eve of his 30th birthday, a gay slacker must overcome his crippling insecurities in order to find love.


Looking across writer/director Leland Montgomery’s previous short films, he seems to have hit upon a modus operandi of telling stories driven by characters in deep emotional turmoil and finding ways of examining these introspective character arcs via different genres and subject matter. With Hotter Up Close, we get a great example of how to keep this methodology fresh and to great comedic effect. As Montgomery reteams with Christopher Matias Aguila of Like Animals, to bring Aguila’s script to the screen, we get a great example of using comedy to examine emotional anguish without undermining it.

Aguila, who also takes the lead role as slacker Chris, gives a performance that perfectly balances his awkward comedic sensibilities and his genuine belief that he is undeserving of love. Struggling to deal with a recent break up while also preparing to turn 30, Chris finds himself standing face to face with his own insecurities. When he is invited to a pool party by new crush Aiden, Chris finds himself having to walk a gallery of manifestations of everything he hates about himself. Concentrating all of Chris’ issues into a single awkward social event not only helps keep the narrative and character arc focused but creates the kind of conflicted situations that end up being a comedy goldmine.

While certain characters come across as somewhat exaggerated, Aguila holds down the believable and relatable Chris alongside best friend Dana (Liz Jenkins) with an almost inexhaustible supply of pithy one-liners, which staying on brand with his character, he only says when no one else is around. There is a feeling of the world around Chris existing in a heightened state of intensity or judgement, suggesting that what we are seeing is a skewed interpretation of reality – how Chris sees the world based on his low opinion of himself.

One of the biggest advantages that this film has going for it is how self-assured it is in telling a story about a gay man recovering from the end of one relationship and finding it within himself to pursue another. Both Montgomery as director and Aquila as writer and protagonist fully commit to a statement of proud representation simply by telling a straightforward and relatable romantic comedy and unapologetically putting themselves at the centre. Cleverly, they recognise that the most effective way to make the LGBTQIA+ experience mainstream is to show just how universal that experience can be.

There is a high-end sheen to the way this film is shot and edited. The craft applied to the filmmaking goes a long way to providing the delicate balance between Chris’ very real internal issues and the film’s slick and stylish humour. The colours pop and the pacing wonderfully compliments the comic timing of Aguila, Jenkins and the rest of the cast. All of this combines to create an experience that is relatable, confidently stylish and a whole lot of fun. Keep an eye out for the delightful short film on the festival circuit.

Studio: Leland Montgomery | Year: 2022 | Genre: Comedy | Duration: 14 Mins | Suitability: Mature Cast: Christopher Matias Aguila, Liz Jenkins, Francisco San Martin, Crew: Director: Leland Montgomery | Producer: Carolyn Manetti, Leland Montgomery | Writer: Christopher Matias Aguila Find out more about the film using the links below: INSTAGRAM Rate this film on IMDb

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