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Turtle Hill, Brooklyn review

A couple question each other and themselves in this low budget drama.

Turtle Hill, Brooklyn

Will (Brian W. Seibert) and his boyfriend Mateo (Ricardo Valdez) gather a group of their friends together to celebrate Will’s 30th birthday. The day starts off badly when Will’s sister turns up unexpectedly and discovers her brother is gay. This sets off a chain of revelations and events that puts Will and Mateo’s relationship to the test and makes them doubt not only each other, but themselves too.

Turtle Hill, Brooklyn has been quietly making its way around the festival circuit picking up nominations and awards along the way. Now the film is opening at Manhattan’s Quad Cinema for a week-long theatrical run from May 3rd. After watching the film, which was directed by Ryan Gielen and written by its stars Seibert and Valdez, it’s not hard to see why the film has been charming the pants off audiences.

Essentially Turtle Hill, Brooklyn is a snapshot in the life of a couple who are reaching a turning point in their relationship. For Will it’s being open and honest about who he is and feeling comfortable in his own skin whereas for Mateo it’s understanding what commitment to one person really means. The interaction between the two characters clearly shows there is love between them but like many couples, gay or straight, they fail to communicate on many levels which leads to all kinds of issues. These issues pop up through the night during the party as a few surprise visitors stir up a bit of trouble and finally push Will and Mateo to talk about their lives, their relationship and their future.

The film starts off a little slow. There’s a little too much concentrating on the guests of the party when all you want to do is focus on Will and Mateo. This is soon rectified and from that point on the film is very engaging.  One of the things we really liked about it is how realistic and authentic it all feels. Will and Mateo’s friends aren’t your usual stereotypes instead being a mix of cultures, sexualities and professions. The depiction of their world is one that we can relate to and even though this is a gay movie, it doesn’t go to pains to point out that its lead characters are gay like much of gay cinema.

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Director Ryan Gielen mixes up the camera-work a bit too throughout the movie. One of the guests uses a handheld camera which is given to Will by Mateo to film party guests sending their best wishes. This is a nice contrast to the more professional camera-work that dominates much of the feel. It makes the story feel a little more organic and perfectly captures the spirit of a party.

What’s really great about Turtle Hill, Brooklyn is the performances of its two leads Seibert and Valdez. Both actors are believable in their roles and their chemistry really does the capture the dynamic of a couple who have been together a while. Seibert’s Will is at times blissfully unaware of the world around him and you get the sense that this could be partly down to choice. Valdez’s Mateo on the other hand is a little more of a loose cannon acting before he thinks then struggling with the consequences.

Turtle Hill, Brooklyn is one of those movies that surprises you. It’s so unassuming that you fully expect to feel not very much of anything by the end of it. Instead it actually is quite moving and it paints a very realistic picture of a modern gay couple dealing with problems in their relationship. With a strong script, a solid story, great performances and strong direction Turtle Hill, Brooklyn is one of those movies that word of mouth will ensure stays around for years to come.

Turtle Hill, Brooklyn will play for a week at Manhattan’s Quad Cinema from Friday 3rd May.

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