By Leslie Pitt @Afrofilmviewer
A broad and sometimes worrying documentary, Chemsex, produced by Vice depicts a destructive world of gay sex and illegal drug taking which as muddied the waters of sexual health and well-being within the gay community. Spending a comprehensive amount of time with a varied group of gay men centred in London, William Fairman and Max Gogarty’s documentary delves into the sex lives of these young men, looking at aspects of modern gay life which may provide connections towards the rising ill-health in the gay community.
Chemsex and its subjects talk a strong game about the perils and dangers of new technology influencing sexual life. It observes the new boundaries being pushed as well as the sometimes disquieting new factors that comes with the new ways of finding connections. These factors help highlight why some members of the gay community are turning to more intense thrills. One Subject; Dick, informs us in full detail of getting high with a partner found on social media, whose quest for excitement is so high that he’s looking for more sex through his app, while having sex with Dick. Such moments remind us just how non-committal modern companionship and dating can feel to so many communities.
Scenes such as this are key to Chemsex, as the film’s strengths lie within showing the isolation and lack of communication men feel within modern day life. This also reveals some of Chemsex’s weaknesses. The lack of mentioning homosexual female communities and their wellbeing, means the documentary misses out on strengthening or contrasting the issue. Then again the film also suffers from not holding a strong amount of stats. Save one piece of commentary via the film’s most informative talking head; David, Chemsex feels light on its due diligence.
While competently shot with an exhaustive array of talking heads, Chemsex’s broadness, as well as its fixed focus on London, betrays what it deems to be an important rising issue. The documentary considers London to be the capital of the male homosexual party lifestyle, but it seems odd that no mention of Brighton or Manchester make their way into the film. The London-centric view of the film blocks out outsider insight, although the diverse age group and ethnic group of subjects within the film is welcoming.
This also creates an area of criticism, however, as the film never really gains a strong grasp of intimacy with the people it speaks with. There’s stories within Chemsex which feel they need time to breathe, which the film just doesn’t really allow. A problematic aspect of the film, as the main take away from Chemsex is that areas of homosexual life still lie on the fringes of society for many reasons, despite an apparent belief in mainstream acceptance. Communication is still needed to provide healthy wellbeing within certain areas of the gay community. It’s a shame that Chemsex doesn’t manage to communicate its issues with the depth that is needed.
Chemsex is released into cinemas Friday December 4th.