Right before the Christmas film rush began, I was asked by Rosh to review her debut short film “DannyBOY”. Now that the holiday craziness is over, I was able to catch up and dive right into some awesome Queer Shorts. And boy does “DannyBOY” deliver! Just from the trailer alone, it’s clear that we’re in for a thriller-esque ride. While the ending is quite captivating, unfortunately there are other bits and pieces that pulled my overall rating down. Yet despite that, it’s still quite a decent film – and a great first endeavour for Rochelle Payne. Let’s break it down further.

Still from "DannyBOY" - the kids, dressed in orange jumpsuits, hang around at the park playground

Synopsis of “DannyBOY”

A group of young teens are cleaning up rubbish in the park, all wearing bright orange jumpsuits. As they banter and encourage each other to keep picking up the rubbish, their community service leader, Rob (Joseph Dewey), walks up pissed off and yelling offensive & homophobic remarks while ordering them around. As soon as he’s gone, they grumble about his offensive remarks before they decide to grab drinks after. One of the group suggests they go to Brown’s. Despite not likely to get in wearing jumpsuits, they decide to give it a try anyway. As expected, the bouncer tries to stop them from entering because of their clothes and lack of ID’s. However, the bar’s owner, CJ (Rochelle Payne), lets them in – there’s no one at the bar anyway!  The bartender, Lola (Rosa Caines), brings over a round of drinks from CJ. When Danny thanks CJ for the round, CJ tells him they’re welcome in the bar whenever. While they relax over the round of drinks, they keep up the banter. Turns out that Alex (Hayley Mccourt) has a crush on Danny, but Danny isn’t interested. On a dare, Danny flirts with Lola just to make Alex jealous – who ends up leaving. Marco (Gustavo Castro) is flirting with a new guy, but they laugh and joke that the guys is just a catfish! Meanwhile, a gang gathers to go after CJ because she’s got all the money. On her way home, Lola runs into the group and ends up getting held up. Danny runs in to save the day; the gang runs off. Lola shrugs it off, but Danny offers to walk her home for safety.

The next day, the community service leader Rob rails into them again but Danny refuses, and is ordered to clean the toilets for talking back. Rob goes into another homophobic rant and starts making threats while Danny walks away. However, the joke is on Rob because Micah recorded the entire thing on his phone! Elsewhere in the park, CJ is on the phone with her friends for confronting her sister. Spying Rob and with a hammer suddenly in her hand, CJ attacks Rob. CJ informs him that the kids are done with their community service, threatening to hurt him further if he fails to listen. At the playground, they all gang up on Carlie for stalking the rest of them. But she dishes out that she was the one who hid the stolen credit cards, creating further drama just to hang out with the group. Danny again intervenes, and finally lets Carlie stick around. Before long, they’re all talking about why they are stuck doing community service. Turns out that Danny shoved a pizza in the delivery boy’s face – but he was allergic to tomatoes; so Danny got arrested instead. They all laugh at how ridiculous Danny’s story is. But Danny gets a text from Lola, causing the rest of them to wonder what’s going on.

Over at Brown’s, CJ’s old friend stops by to confront CJ and demanding money, using their mutual friend Benny as leverage. She wants $10,000 to keep it from Benny; CJ finally offers $2k – along with a threat of her own, as he confesses to doing something to her friend Genevieve. She agrees. On the other side of town, Lola and Danny grab a drink together and bond further. Before long, they’re slow dancing in the empty bar. Lola suggests they go for a walk, where they come upon a solo guitarist performing in the park. Lola invites Danny over, but he can’t because of the cleaning job in the morning. On his way home, the gang grabs Danny and force HER down to the ground, applying makeup while making transphobic & hateful remarks. The next morning they’re lined up to start work, but Rob shows up and is oddly pleasant. He gives them all their signed papers; their work is done! Danny ends up at Brown’s to hang with Lola, but CJ asks what’s new (to confirm that the work service is done). CJ admits that Lola is her little sister, but makes a veiled threat to not hurt Lola… something about a boyfriend being pushed off a bridge.

Later, Danny shows up to Lola’s flat where they share a drink. But as they start to make out and hands begin to roam, Danny pulls back and walks out abruptly. They text a bit, but Danny still can’t admit what’s wrong. On a different day, Marco is finally on his date with his online match – but turns out they’re not quite a good match; he gets ditched. But when Marco chats with Lola afterwards, she asks about Danny as she hasn’t seen him in a few days. But Marco doesn’t know any guys named Danny… until it clicks that Lola thought Danny was a guy! Awkwardly Lola slips into the back. Danny calls her but she doesn’t say anything at first. While we listen, we watch in real time as Danny tries to talk to her while walking home – just as the gang walks up behind him. They attack Danny and as they kick and beat her down on the ground, Lola is forced to listen in horror. With a kick to the head, Danny suddenly stops moving and the gang scatters. Lola desperately tries to ring Danny back, begging her to pick up – But Danny just lays there on the ground.

Still from "DannyBOY" - Danny and Lola walk, arm in arm, on a sunny day in the park

The Critique

It’s hard to pinpoint all the exact reasons, but there’s something about “DannyBOY” that doesn’t sit well with me. Don’t get me wrong, this queer short has some great moments! The gaggle of juvenile delinquents are a hodgepodge of queer characters from gay, lesbian, and trans/non-binary who bring life to a non-conforming modern age of problems. Despite a dark and homophobic nature to the dialogue, “DannyBOY” deals with difficult topics in a unique way. And the ending is just freaky and horrific with some excellent timing & editing. The subject is tragic, and we cannot look away – which is a good thing! Add in a haunting underscore, and it drives the situation to the abrupt yet final conclusion.

But I can’t ignore a couple problems. For one, I had a difficult time trying to keep all the characters in line, the orange jumpsuits the kids wear for much of the film doesn’t help. With regards to the script, I started to get lost with the sideline story with CJ, the bar, and his connection with the gang trying to blackmail her. I understand the connection, but it was vague and only hinted at here and there. We also didn’t get an explanation why CJ was in the park and why she went after Rob – with a hammer that came out of nowhere. (Who carries a hammer to the park?) Lastly, there was just a timing & flow issue during moments of the short. It was hard to tell if it due to how the actors delivered their lines and interacted with each other, or if it were an editing issue. While on the longer side for a short, I wonder if it could’ve been trimmed up a bit to be a bit more concise while focusing on Danny more.

In the end, I just couldn’t justify giving any rating category full stars; but equally, none of my rating criteria deserved a zero score. There is a lot of potential and “DannyBOY” is certainly quite an encouraging first endeavour for Rosh Payne and her crew. I’ll be excited to see the next film!

Still from "DannyBOY" - Danny is walking down stairs in the park at dusk

If you’re looking for a happy ending, then “DannyBOY” probably isn’t the Queer Short film for you.  It has the potential to trigger those who have suffered homophobia, so please keep that in mind. But with a unique storyline and a queer-inclusive cast of characters, I actually enjoyed the film. The last ten minutes alone is quite captivating and will leave you wanting more! It’s not perfect, but a great first film for Rochelle Payne. I encourage you to give it a watch and let me know your thoughts!

[You can watch “DannyBOY” on YouTube HERE]

Queer Relevance of “DannyBOY”

Without a doubt, “DannyBOY” is a queer film. From highlighting a non-binary lead with Danny, to the LGBTQ group of juvenile offenders she’s working alongside, and more – it’s all queer here! But it’s also not just about gender & orientation identities. The darker underbelly of this queer short reveals homophobia on a couple different levels, and unfortunately deals with a hate crime itself as a result. Despite the darker topic to its plot, this queer short film is a welcome edition to the queer oeuvre.