Engaged (Scala, 2019)

Engaged is a cute short film (about 15 minutes) from writer/director David Scala. Its central conflict is the difficulty of its gay protagonist, Darren, in popping the question to his boyfriend.

Although short films are not frequently reviewed on this website, I took the time to write up Engaged because it contextualized some of the observations I had about last year’s Love, Simon. I opined about that film that a large part of its success lay in its ability to invite straight viewers to identify with the gay protagonist. Although the characters in both films are gay, the conflicts they struggle with are not unique to any sexual orientation.

As an example, Engaged begins in a restaurant. Every time Darren approaches the moment of decision, a scene erupts as a nearby straight male proclaims his devotion to a female as the surrogate audience cheers. The scene could easily be played by a straight couple. Even though there are parts of Darren’s (or the audience’s) response that might be specific to one sexual orientation, there are other parts that will seem familiar rather than just funny.

A more complicated comparison to Love, Simon includes the observation that both that film and Engaged reach a climax with a female friend telling off the gay male rather than sympathizing with or pitying him. The willingness of authors or directors to be critical of the gay characters or even just to have them practice self-examination (which is quite different from self loathing) feels like a positive trend, one that helps dramas to induce a range of emotions rather than a single, repeated one.

Engaged will play at Palm Springs International ShortFest on June 21, 2019 at 12:45 pm and at Frameline: San Francisco LGBTQ+ Film Festival on June 22.

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