This Queer short film review is part of my “Queer Christmas Shorts for 2020” post.

Not all Christmas films and shorts are jolly and bright. “Lucky Fares” is a bit on the darker, drearier side, but there’s still a glimpse of hope we tend to associate with Christmas films. As such, this might put off many of you who are looking for those holiday films to lift you spirits. I actually enjoyed it, but I also have a unique advantage regarding crossing borders and the hoops & red tape you have to go through. But let’s break this short down a bit.

Still from "Lucky Fares" - Balthazar and Santa sit in the jail cell, side by side

Synopsis of “Lucky Fares”

Santa (Luis Deogracia) and what appears to be one of the Three Wise Men are running towards the camera, clearly running away from something or someone. They come to a sudden halt and just stare – they’ve been caught. In the jail cell, “Balthazar” (Jose Ramón Gómez Friha) berates “Santa” for messing everything up and for running, which led them to getting caught. Apparently there is a third guy, Casper, who wasn’t caught (or caught and taken elsewhere) and they were all dressing up as the Three Wise Men. But “Santa” mistook myrrh for beer, and could only find a Santa costume to wear! While “Santa” mutters out of concern for Casper, “Balthazar” bluntly tells him what’s going to happen; apparently this is not his first time trying to cross the border and getting deported. “Santa” asks him how to stay in the country legally. “Papers and a job. Marry a woman – or a man.” But the overall picture he paints for “Santa” is bleak; the cops will “screw you over”, which causes “Santa” to be even more terrified – until laughing, “Balthazar” remarks “no, not fuck you”, but just mess with you and such!

While the jail guard walks by dragging his baton along the bar cells, “Santa” subtly reaches over to touch “Balthazar’s” knees. “Balthazar” quietly mentions that if “Santa” marries a man, he might have to kiss him to prove it’s real – the same with a woman. Except “Santa” has never kissed anyone before. “We can practice”, whispers “Balthazar”, as they lean closer and finally share that first kiss. Suddenly, they are passionately making out in the jail cell. When they finally stop, “Balthazar” removes his hat and gives his real name, Fares. “Santa” does the same – Lucky, a common name where he’s from. Fares smiles at the coincidence. Unfortunately, it’s all cut short when the guard returns and takes Fares away for questioning leaving Lucky all alone. The next scene skips ahead to just Lucky, starring off to the side. The guard is trying to ask him questions: where are you from, his family, his surname, etc. But Lucky doesn’t answer. Suddenly, the guard tells him Fare is already being sent back home – “Do you know what they do to fags in his home country” the guard mocks. Enraged, Lucky lashes out as the screen cuts to black. In silence, a quote is shown across the screen: “The human being, deprived of a future, becomes an animal.”

The Critique

Short films are tricky in that they don’t have quite as long to create a story and develop characters; instead, we often get just a quick glimpse into a bigger picture. This is certainly the case with “Lucky Fares”, as the short starts off after a rather important incident: illegally crossing the border! To add even more puzzlement to the viewer, both boys keep their real names to themselves as a means of protection from the guards and what will happen next. We’re left with a LOT of questions that don’t really get answered. Yet – it actually makes the story work along with the couple glimpses into both characters. Santa/Lucky’s charm and cute innocence captivates the viewer. Balthazar/Fares is quite the flirt, it’s clear how he entices and wins over Lucky. Together, they’re quite enjoyable to watch. Writer/Director Marco Fettolini, along with co-writer Alain Kortazar, has created a captivating Queer short.

Cinematographically, “Lucky Fares” is well shot. With steady camera work, it has a professional feel that allows the story to unfold. Specifically, I loved how right at the opening, the two boys are running towards the camera. Or later, when they finally take off their hats and honestly introduce themselves to each other, it’s filmed directed towards us. It’s something simple, but it draws us into the story and was a smart move. Another element that really excited me was the filming through the bars, and the actually security cam footage when the guard comes in to remove Fares. While they do feel a bit out of place compared to the prior scenes, it’s done intentionally because it forces the viewer to remember that these boys are in the jail cell – it’s not actually a great situation, even though they find that spark of happiness between each other.

The only real issue I have with the film is the ending. It’s a bit choppy, and I wasn’t too keen on the contrast with the first part of the short. The character change in Lucky is equally quite unexpected and throws you off; you leave realising that the short film is actually NOT a happy ending. I realise that Lucky is panicking after Fares was taken away, and that he is being taunted by the guard. I loved the quote and how it was worked in at the very end, but I have to question what the point was; why did we have to end on such an angry moment (other than just the shock value)?

Still from "Lucky Fares" - Lucky and Fares, after confessing their real names to each other, bond while sitting in the jail cell

Overall, this is a great queer short film. Even though the story is a bit dark – after all it takes place in a jail cell where the two boys are facing deportation! – there’s a bit of hope that truly makes this short special. Available to watch in full on Vimeo, go give “Lucky Fares” a watch. I have a feeling that it’ll at least bring a smile to your face!

Queer Relevance of “Lucky Fares”

“Lucky Fares” is a short film about questioning one’s sexuality and embracing something new. Yet there’s a slight twist in that the actual plot isn’t immediately queer – early on, Fares makes a side comment about marrying a man for them to be able to stay and not get deported. He later implies that they might force them to kiss to prove it’s real, almost taunting and teasing sexuality. Lucky gives in when they offer to practice, and once their lips meet, they fully embrace. It’s as if there’s a hidden passion waiting to come out, something that many folks who question their sexuality have contemplated at some point in their life. As such, this short is certainly queer.