In From the Side is quickly becoming one of the most high profile queer releases of the year thanks to its sensitive depiction of a forbidden love affair amidst a backdrop of the sporting world. The debut feature of visual effects editor Matt Carter, who co-writes alongside Adam Silver, is an immersive slow-burn bolstered by a stellar lead turn from rising star Alexander Lincoln.
Mark (Lincoln) is a new member of the Stags rugby club, drawn to first team player Warren (Alexander King). A drunken encounter sparks on an ongoing affair between the pair, which they desperately try to conceal from their existing partners and teammates alike. As this secret becomes harder to contain, relationships with the team grow tense and loyalties are tested.
Carter directs with a simmering slow-burning eye, complimenting this in his immersive and observant cinematography. There is a sense of calm and quiet contemplation even as scenes depicting the slamming and sliding of muddy rugby games are shot. Refreshingly In From the Side subverts the depictions of toxic masculinity so often associated with the sport, capturing the nature of Mark and Warren’s club as one that celebrates community, acceptance and solidarity. The gentle style truly comes into force when quietly building up the budding romance between Mark and Warren from lingering gazes building up to heated moments of passion.
There’s a natural romantic chemistry between the protagonists thanks to stellar turns from the film’s leading men. The handsome Mark, the isolated partner in a long distance relationship, and the dissatisfied Warren, finding what they lack in one another. In From the Side is at its best when exploring this relationship – a sparky energy between Mark and Warren leads to a steamy passion and gentle eroticism running throughout the film whilst a romantic bond trickles through the couple’s interactions around the rugby field, London setting, and in a romantic and beautifully shot trip to Geneva.
Carter and Silver’s narrative never quite allows us to embrace the romance without thinking of its forbidden undertones. Hooking us in with the gradual growing suspicions of teammates allows for In From the Side to pack a slightly more tense edge as teammates grow suspicious and Mark and Warren’s secret begins to spill over into their life on the pitch. Here the feature begins to explore themes of chosen family, with the tension sparked by the player’s affair leading to a touching conclusion exploring acceptance and community within the world of LGBTQ+ individuals and sport.
At a lengthy two hours fourteen minutes, In From the Side remains quietly engaging throughout. Lincoln’s exploration of Mark’s melting pot of emotions from his excitement through his newfound relationship, his guilt at his affair, and the spiralling stress to withhold the secret from his teammate, gives the actor much to depth to explore in the role.