Will a white lie cost them their White Christmas?

[“Adam and Steve” is the fourth film of my “5 Queer Holiday Shorts for 2022” post. To read the next review, “Will You Merry Me?”, click HERE. To read the previous review, “Christmas In Clyde“, click HERE.]

With all of my searching each year for new queer holiday short films, I must confess that I missed one! However I can be forgiven a little bit because “Adam and Steve” premiered in May of 2019 as a final project for Film BA (Hons) students at Roehampton University. And it is yet another queer Christmas film that I discovered on YouTube. And what a cute queer short it is! I absolutely love the premise of queer siblings trying to hide their respective partners by swapping – and we cannot ignore the cute pun of “hiding in the closet!” Unfortunately there were a two things that distracted me a bit. So why wasn’t this a perfect queer Christmas short film? Read on to find out!

Film poster for "Adam and Steve Still 2"

Synopsis of “Adam and Steve”

Adam and Mary, two gay siblings, decide to bring their partners home for Christmas dinner. They really don’t want to come out though, so they come up with a plan; they’ll swap partners and pretend to be two straight couples. After a tragic first encounter with Grandma, who has a lot of opinions about children out of wedlock, foreigners and – bread, Steve can’t take it anymore and threatens to leave. Adam has his way of persuading him, but that may involve the two of them, a tiny cupboard under the stairs, and a very high chance of Grandma walking in.

Film poster for "Adam and Steve Still 6"

The Critique

There are typical tropes that grace the scripts of Christmas films – but writer Mars Nicoli took those, threw them away, and gave us something quite different. “Adam and Steve” is not your perfect queer rom-com story; it’s actually more a drama dashed with some humour while playing upon a single comedic pun – and great! By making both brother and sister gay, it creates the perfect comedic situation when they have to go back into the closet because of a very homophobic grandmother. They simply swap partners! We get awkwardness and conflict as they all try to hide the deception, which of course doesn’t last for too long because Grandma is quite simply horrifying in her remarks. Adam follows Steve and tries to fix things, which leads to the two most comedic bits of the short: hiding in the closet and knocking out Grandma with a frying pan!

But the script is only part of the entire picture. Without decent actors to bring the words to life, even the best script can fall flat. Thankfully this queer holiday short film has that too! Samuel Laughton does a great job bringing the young gay character of Adam to life, slightly awkward but not confident enough to finally come out to his family. However it’s Cameron Turner‘s portrayal of Steve that is perhaps the best acting of the cast. There is a real tenderness and care for Steve as he goes along with this crazy plan, but cannot keep it all inside as his emotions force him to leave before he snaps. Together though, the two boys are perfectly believable as they go back and forth, caring for each other but struggling to hide their true identities from Adam’s mum and grandma.

So with everything great about this queer Christmas film, why did I feel necessary to knock off a few points? Well the sad truth is that the cinematographic elements are a bit wonky. The films shot outside are nicely balanced between lighting and camera work. However once everyone moves inside, the lighting is tad washed out and more befitting of a soap opera than a film. Soap operas are shot on a daily basis and they don’t have time to do multiple takes per scene. As such, there is often an abundance of lighting sources so that nothing is backlit or poorly lit. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – but it IS something that automatically pinpoints a viewer’s mind to soap opera, not an actual film.

There is also an ongoing issue with camera work – specifically regarding focus, something I certainly noticed during the inside scenes. For example, when we meet Grandma on the sofa, she’s perfectly in focus over the kid’s shoulders – until she leans just a hair forward and the camera looses focus. Of course, we need to remember that this is a student film and not big budget production companies. Yet even keeping this in mind, it’s quite distracting while watching this queer holiday short film. Unfortunately just as distracting is the overacting by Lyn Mann as Grandma. I get that her character is supposed to be obnoxious & homophobic, and I can even see that there’s even a bit of camp written into the character. Yet something just doesn’t come off right in the execution and unfortunately it stood out.

Film poster for "Adam and Steve Still 11"

“Adam and Steve” might be a student film project, but there is no denying that this is quite a powerful queer holiday film! With both siblings having to hide in the closet from homophobic grandma, the stage is set for an intriguing story that even weaves in some bits of comedy in what is otherwise a dramatic short film. It gives new meaning to coming out of the closet! Given that the film is posted on YouTube – there is no reason why you cannot go and watch this queer Christmas short film – so go watch it now!

Queer Relevance of “Adam and Steve”

How queer is “Adam and Steve”? Well, we have a very homophobic grandmother (it’s uncertain on the mother views but she doesn’t seem to be supportive), a gay brother and a lesbian sister who have both brought their respective partners home for Christmas dinner, along with a literal play on words for “going back into the closet”… Yup – it’s most certainly a queer holiday film! That itself makes it queer relevant, however it’s a mix of it all that really adds perspective because even though times have greatly changed, not all parents are supportive of their gay children. And even if someone’s parents are supportive, that doesn’t always correlate to their grandparent’s being supportive as there are often generational differences involved. “Adam and Steve” takes that unsupportive environment and shows how troubling it can be for anyone forced to go back into the closet for holiday gatherings.