Screening at the East End Film Festival, Soft Lad is the debut feature from writer/director Leon Lopez. A tale of love, betrayal and deception, Soft Lad compensates for a fairly standard story with strong performances and a director who fully understands his genre, even if he is unwilling to take risks.
The Soft Lad of the title is David, a seventeen-year-old dancer in the midst of a torrid affair with his sister Jane’s husband, Jules. When a once-in-a-lifetime dance opportunity and a new boyfriend, Sam, enter his life, David is ready to leave the affair behind, but Jules’ dark secrets look set to leave everybody’s lives in tatters.
One of the highlights of Soft Lad is the relationship between David and Sam. The chemistry between the two actors is incredibly strong, and their scenes have an easy romantic quality to them. Separate entirely to the seedier aspects of Jules’ story, their relationship develops in a manner reminiscent to Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, and avoids the clichés present elsewhere in the narrative. Ultimately, though the two stories interconnect in a devastating way in the climax, David and Sam’s relationship could have made a beautiful film entirely on its own.
One disappointment of Soft Lad is the fact that, although David is a dancer, we only see him dance as the bookends to the film. This denies us the opportunity to see David express his emotions physically through the motions, which could have been a more effective way of showing rather than telling. Ultimately, though, Soft Lad is a promising debut for Lopez, but one that succeeds mostly because of its fine performances.