Ah, the teenage crush of our fantasies! For many, it was one of the jocks. The ones that everyone dreamt about – yet few got to have. For me, it was one of the only other openly gay guys in school… I digress, BUT we’ve all been there. We’ve all had a crush on someone who we didn’t even know was gay – and sometimes didn’t care. And that’s perhaps the thing I enjoyed the most about Brian Tognotti’s queer short film, “Just Ask Him”. While this queer short has a few odd quirks, the resulting short film brings to life a character that every queer person can relate to – and gives us a positive ending. Plus, it’s rather cute! I’ve had the intention to review for QUITE a while now. So let’s finally break down what worked – and what didn’t work.
Synopsis of “Just Ask Him”
Andrew is walking along the road, conflicted. Back at school, he’s mesmerised by the new transfer student, Ricky, who is kicking around a soccer ball. His dreamlike staring is interrupted by none other than Ricky himself – back in the classroom, as he tries to sell Andrew a coupon book to fundraise for the soccer team. Unfortunately, Andrew only has $10 on him – but Ricky says it’s fine, “Pay me the rest later”. While Andrew’s best friend Joelle, looks over puzzling from her seat, Andrew asks xxx how long he’s been on the team leading to a friendly chat. After class, Joelle accosts Andrew for fantasizing over a hot jock – who probably isn’t even gay. “He was JUST trying to sell you a coupon book; they aren’t worth it” she claims. It’s not Andrew’s fault though, it’s a matter of where they live. While Andrew tries to say that Ricky isn’t like that, she’s not buying it.
Back at home and alone in his room, Andrew poses in front of his mirror wishing his biceps were just a bit bigger – trying to look like the other jocks. Suddenly, Andrew walks in and starts making out with Andrew! But wait, nope. Andrew’s having a daydream fantasy – exactly when his mom walks in on Andrew kissing a soccer ball! Realising something’s awry, she finally lands on the issue “Ah, it’s about a boy!” “But he’s not gay”, Andrew tries to interject. “Did you ask him?” she bluntly asks before remarking that he needs to not be afraid to go out there and get what you want.
Later, Andrew is walking towards the soccer field and spies Ricky kicking around the ball. After checking how he looks in his phone, and receiving a motivational text from his mom, Andrew starts to gather the courage to talk to Ricky – but Ricky sees him first. After paying him the other $10, Ricky asks Andrew to play keeper for him. Nervously, Andrew agrees. But after a handful of embarrassing misses and eventually catching the ball, Andrew admits defeat. But before walking away, Andrew gathers his courage and asks Ricky about the upcoming dance… “the gay dance?” Ricky inquires? Ricky gets agitated, “Why are you asking me?” Andrew prepares to get hit. Except Ricky doesn’t hit Andrew. Instead, Ricky asks him worriedly, “How did you know? Did you catch me checking you out?” Turns out that Ricky is also gay! Not closeted, but just doesn’t put it out there – plus, “I cannot dance!” he admits. Though after Andrew promises to not make him dance, Ricky agrees to go to the dance together.
Overall, I enjoyed “Just Ask Him”. It’s a queer short film that not only lives up to it’s name, but the characters are written both honestly and in a way that helps break down stereotypes. Andrew is that quirky quiet kid. The one that most people know, but doesn’t have too many friends aside from a few close ones. Donovan Napoli perfectly captures that kid many of us can relate to. As we later learn from his mother, he has already came out to everyone – but the small town he lives in still isn’t the most accepting. However, that doesn’t stop him from having a crush over the new kid at school, Ricky. On the other hand, Ricky is confident and knows he’s attractive. He’s the jock whom everyone wants and Rio Padilla-Smith’s portrayal lives up to his character!
However, it’s their interactions that really make this queer short film blossom. Sure, we can all relate to that uncertainly (and perhaps that desire of hope) on whether our teenage crush is actually gay. And it’s hard to build up the courage to even talk to them, let alone ask them out. But in this queer short film, while Andrew eventually finds the nerve to ask Ricky to the dance, it’s Ricky who gives us the biggest surprise – he’s also gay. And he admits to checking out Andrew! This brilliant twist of writing by Tognotti shows us that stereotypes aren’t everything; you CAN be a jock and still be gay. While there are other films that give us the same message, “Just Ask Him” does the same thing in a mere 14 minutes.
Before I breakdown the few things that didn’t work for me, I have to address the other charming character of this queer short film, Andrew’s mother. The bit of comedy after she walks in to find Andrew making out with a soccer ball makes her enjoyable, but it’s her later remarks that elevate her character. She’s right to the point: “Did you ask him?” she asks, after Andrew remarks that his crush probably isn’t even gay. All of her lines equate to short motivational remarks – and they all show a positive support system, the kind that every queer kid hopes to have from their parents. (Though sadly is not one that everyone gets.) And Sherri Z. Heller is simply wonderful as Andrew’s mom. Her scene might be rather short, but it’s one of the more memorable parts of “Just Ask Him.”
Unfortunately, the only other character in this queer short film was not enjoyable. Frankly, I found Elsie Arisa’s character of Joelle, aka Andrew’s sassy best friend, to be rather rude and harsh. Not quite sure if that’s how the character was written, or how it was portrayed – or both. Her lines actually are worth noting: don’t waste your time on them, they don’t care for us, etc. But the attitude with which she makes her point is not at all supportive. Andrew is supposedly her best friend, but she’s putting him down rather than encouraging him or being there for support if things go badly, as she expects.
I also have some issues with the overall pacing & editing of “Just Ask Him.” For example, I enjoyed the intro. The music was intriguing, the shot was set up nicely. But what was the connection to the rest of the story? It would’ve been better had Andrew been pacing back and forth walking up to Ricky kicking around the soccer ball. But instead, that’s an abrupt cut between scenes. The other transitions weren’t as bad, but equally they didn’t feel like transitions either. Watching the entire short film felt choppy, as if we went from one vignette to the next. They all create an overall story, but the flow from one moment to the next was missing.
Lastly, the short is missing an actual ending! Andrew finally found the nerve to ask out Ricky, Ricky finally agrees… and … they kiss for real? Nope. The camera cuts to the ball going into the soccer net. While that’s an interpretation of “scoring”, it doesn’t fit with the rest of the film’s vibe. And we’ve already seen the two boys kiss during the fantasy dream sequence, so it’s not an issue of actors not wanting to kiss. So why don’t we get the real kiss? Yes, I realize that a happy ending doesn’t always include a romantic kiss. But abruptly ending the short to cue the credits is a crappy way to end a rather cute & romantic scene.
Despite the few issues I have with “Just Ask Him”, this queer short film’s good moments outshine the others. Watching this short will certainly make you smile by the end. Either because you can relate to the characters, or because you’re a sucker for a cute teenage romance like me! And best of all, you can watch “Just Ask Him” yourself over at GayBingeTV. So give it a quick watch – it’s less than fifteen minutes, after all! – and let me know what you think!
Queer Relevance of “Just Ask Him”
If you’ve watched this queer short film, there’s no question that “Just Ask Him” is queer relevant. Andrew is an openly gay teenager, Ricky is a semi-closeted jock. Most of us can relate to one or the other. Additionally, we all have had our own personal experience with having to debate internally whether our crush is actually gay or not – all because we don’t have the courage to simply go ask them.
However, I think the most queer relevant part of this queer short film is Andrew’s mother’s remarks. She knows exactly what to tell her son about finding the courage – courage that she points out he already has shown by coming out in the first place! It’s a heartfelt positive message of support that many of us may have gotten from our own parents, and unfortunately some only dreamt of receiving. To see that portrayed on screen in “Just Ask Him”, well… representation matters.