Carbon & Water review – sexual fulfilment of a gay man in his 60s is little-explored territory

Estimated read time 2 min read

Shot in the scenic North Yorkshire fishing village of Staithes, Christopher Clarke’s drama seeks to contrast the majestic beauty of the landscape with the loneliness of ageing. Retired biology teacher Vince (Malcolm Connolly), a gay man in his 60s, struggles to recover from a troubling health episode; from long beach walks to a careful diet, his daily routine seems restorative on the surface. On the emotional front, however, something is missing. Like a whirlwind of possibility, Carl (Darren Haywood), Vince’s new district nurse, waltzes into his life. Could this be the start of a special relationship?

Considering that the inner lives of older gay men are under-represented on film, Clarke’s film is well intentioned in its attempt to centre Vince’s desire for sexual fulfilment and companionship. Nevertheless, the characters are so underwritten that it’s impossible to see their predicaments as anything more than didactic talking points. After Carl accepts Vince’s offer of a spare room to rent, their lives become further entangled. Between dressing up in full leather gear to rummaging through Carl’s personal belongings, Vince makes his interest clear, to Carl’s discomfort. The tension between them, however, emerges primarily through lengthy, expository dialogue, which gets increasingly repetitive as the film progresses.

There’s also a certain amateurishness to the film-making style, something of a surprise considering Clarke’s experience in the industry. Most of the visuals comprise either shot/reverse shots or phone conversations; these offer little help in illustrating Vince’s isolation in cinematic terms. Erratic editing and inconsistent colour grading don’t help either, and sloppiness is so evident that, unfortunately, it distracts from the film’s loftier ambitions.


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