For those of us who love gay romance movies (dramas and especially romcoms) it has never been the endless buffet of options like you’ll find in the straight world. Instead, it’s pretty much been feast or famine, with the famines far more frequent than the feasts.
But that is changing...and those of us who love Indie romcoms are finding the buffet is continually adding more choices.
Thanks to directors and director/writers like Rob Williams, Doug Spearman, Marco Berger, Thiago Cazaedo and Mike Mosallam, recent years have given us some very high quality features that include gay romance with a happy ending. The man who has set the standard for these films is Williams, who gave us titles like Make the Yuletide Gay, Role/Play and Shared Rooms, and because of his trail blazing, nowadays we’ve been seeing more and more features in this genre by new directors and director/writers.
Breaking Fast by writer/director Mike Mosallam is one of the latest entries into this genre -- and it’s almost literally the perfect feast for those of us who love gay romances with a clear HEA (Happily Ever After); delicately and deliciously put together with the help of an absolutely wonderful cast to carry out Mosallam’s excellent script. This movie isn’t for those who want harsh reality throughout their films or the type of message that bludgeons you over the head. It was made strictly to entertain and delight, and it succeeds like few others of its kind.
Set during Ramadan, the Muslim month-long observance of fasting during the day, the story centers on an American Muslim named Mo (Haaz Sleiman) who lives in West Hollywood and is a physician with what seems to be an idyllic life that includes an openly accepting family and a steady boyfriend. Things very quickly become less than happy for Mo as his 3-year relationship with Hassan (Patrick Sabongui) comes to a painful and indelicate end. And that’s where the heart of this film begins.
The bulk of the movie picks up this story nearly one year later during Ramadan as Mo attends the birthday party of his best friend, Sam (Amin El Gamal) and ends up meeting the main non-Muslim character of the movie, Kal (Michael Cassidy). What ensues is a wonderfully slow burning romance between the two men, which is beautifully bound up by their mutual love of Superman and The Sound of Music.
Because it’s Ramadan and Mo is devout, he cannot have his period of fasting during daylight hours spoiled by food, water or sexual thoughts. So as he and Kal begin to cook together and share Iftar (the meal at sundown that breaks the daily fast) we see them becoming closer and closer.
Of course, no romantic movie can have completely smooth sailing for the main characters; there has to be a conflict that arises sometime mid-film which (at least momentarily) comes between our couple’s budding romance. And Breaking Fast is no different as family histories and drama, and differing views of religion, threaten to permanently separate the two men.
All of this does the job, creating the necessary separation -- setting the stage for the movie’s inevitable and deliciously satisfying ending.
The success of this movie begins and ends with the excellent writing and direction by Mosallam, who helps to build the main characters into people we come to care about and root for. It’s then brought the rest of the way home by absolutely perfect casting and performances, especially by Sleiman (Mo) and Cassidy (Kal), with a huge assist by Gamal.
Their on-screen chemistry is exactly right for that slow burn taking place between the two main characters, and with every flirty remark or subtle (but obviously sexual) glance by Kal, it becomes clear that these two can have something very special together if they want it badly enough.
Throw in some perfectly timed comedic scenes featuring Gamal -- and an almost equal number of poignant and wise interventions by his character of Sam; and then add the very delightful Rula Gardenier as Mama, and your film is on course for a most spectacular cellular recipe.
As is the case with most really good Indie movies, Breaking Fast is tied together wonderfully by its spot on cinematography and eclectic choices for music; and some of the most mouth-watering meal scenes you can imagine that feature a spectacular array of Middle Eastern foods (the movie is about breaking daily fasts after all). By the end of the movie, you find you have enjoyed a feast for the eyes, ears, heart and soul.
And major kudos to whoever made the choice to put the subtitles (when Arabic is spoken) in yellow, making them very easy to see and read. Too often, great Indie films with foreign languages choose to use white, and the words get irritatingly lost in the background.
I’ll close by saying that viewers should be sure to watch this film more than once, so they can pick up on all of the, sometimes, subtler themes that are happening on the screen. You won’t regret one second of watching, no matter how many times you choose to do so.