Why Not You review – a hollow depiction of homophobic violence

Here’s yet another film that falls disappointingly flat when the film-makers are more preoccupied with delivering topical messages than outlining nuanced characters. Why Not You tries hard to comment on a mosaic of issues – homophobia, addiction, PTSD, religious extremism – yet ends up hollow and emotionally vapid.

The debut feature from Evi Romen, a seasoned film editor, the film’s visual flair sometimes makes up for the jumbled plot, which follows Mario (Thomas Prenn), an aspiring queer dancer at odds with his conservative community in the primarily German-speaking South Tyrol, Italy. With a penchant for wigs and nail polish, he dreams of bigger cities and the personal freedom they promise. Tragedy strikes on a trip to a gay bar in Rome with Lenz (Noah Saavedra), a close friend with whom Mario shares an intense sexual tension. Islamic extremists open fire on the patrons; Lenz dies while Mario survives. Grief, coupled with intense guilt, sends Mario spiralling further into a cycle of addiction until he crosses path with a local Muslim community willing to rehabilitate the self-destructive man.

Despite dealing with a host of hot-button subjects, the film has a cavalier approach that borders on distastefulness. In the aftermath of the terrorist attack, the camera glides leisurely around the gay bar, showing lifeless, bloody bodies artistically placed among the destruction. Regardless of how cinematic this looks, aestheticising violence against queer people is morally questionable. The Muslim characters also come off as deeply simplistic: they are either terrorists or benevolent agents, all mere plot points for the white protagonist’s character development.

While the shortcomings are numerous, the film does feel authentic in how it captures the landscape and the spirit of the South Tyrol, an environment rarely inspected by cinema. Such attention and care, alas, does not extend to the film’s emotional and political issues.

Why Not You is released on 24 May on digital platforms.

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