Life in the blistering gay capital of San Francisco is a hazy dream that some of us don’t encounter in our every day lives. So, like the media we fall hard and succumb to, it’s partly the reason the setting of HBO’s TV drama Looking worked so well. Show creator Michael Lannan and director Andrew Haigh never sailed smoothly, however, as character nuances never registered wholly with a handful of fans and as difficult as HBO boss Michael Lombardo found it to cancel the show after a mere two seasons, there was enough backlash and petition frenzy to warrant a feature-length film to tie up those loose ends that had us reeling come the finale of season two.
Core character Patrick (Jonathan Groff, that voice from Frozen) moves back to San Fran after a year’s absence to join his clan, muscle Mary Dom (Murray Bartlett) and Augustin (Frankie J. Alvarez), for a joyous occasion. Memories, however, lead him to deal with past relationships for that final piece of closure.
The show, as per most season finales, ended with a subtle, almost melancholic sadness. Whilst the gripes of the show’s pilot series resided foremost in attributes of its core characters, the follow up grew into something that resonated and mirrored what i can almost imagine being millions of fans. The show, unlike other media offerings dealing with homosexuality that tend to detour into flairs of comedy, embraces the harsh realities of dating, friendships and the general ups and downs of being a gay man.
This 85 minute-long episode is a bittersweet send off, and, as expected, the show’s creators have beckoned those brash, longing feelings of loneliness as Patrick, truly the everyday man full of self-doubt and questionable morals, deals with closure, bringing the relationships between charming Latino barber Richie (Raul Castillo) and ex Brit boss Kevin (Russell Tovey) to a magnitude of feelings, ranging from the achingly heartbreaking to an emotionally rewarding close.
This dramedy with more drama than comedy spirals from one long-winded but engaging, often poignant, conversation between friends to a realistically engineered script on monogamy and marriage, it flows with the show’s dealings with trans issues, HIV and polygamy. And while the film continues to battle the wavering feelings of our protagonist, there’s an undoubtedly universal approach to this show and this final goodbye doesn’t miss an opportunity to maintain a charged and perpetually interesting insight into lives that in one way or another could easily resonate with your own. That’s the charm of Looking, you’re able to transcend past the characters sometimes inescapable descent into a fault-ridden persona because, let’s face it, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll see fragments of you hidden between a personality that quivers with one of these ideals of what its like to be a gay man. As one argument unfolds in the neon-drenched escapades that is one of San Fran’s gay clubs, one gay man’s ideals shouldn’t deter another.
It’s a genuine shame that something that’s so easy to invest in was cut before its time to truly flourish, and the tagline really hits the nail on the head when stating that the end is just the beginning. When the credits begin to roll on this final chapter, you feel eager to catch up on next week’s episode. The ends are tied to an amicable extent and as the characters long gazingly into one another, the incoming adieu feels almost too sad to admit.
Dir: Andrew Haigh
Scr: Andrew Haigh, Michael Lannan
Cast: Jonathan Groff, Murray Bartlett, Frankie J. Alvarez, Raul Castillo, Russell Tovey, Lauren Weedman
Prd: Shana Fischer Huber
DOP: Xavier Grobet
Runtime: 85 minutes
Looking: The Movie airs in the UK on August 2nd on Sky Atlantic.