The pressures of living in a still conservative society quietly build towards a small explosion provoking a moment of catharsis among a series of gay men some of whom are lovers or long term friends while others are meeting for the first time each bringing with them their own particular fears and anxieties. Inspired by his own life experiences, Shuichi Kawanobe’s Our House Party (ボクらのホームパーティー, Bokura no Home Party) presents a naturalistic view of gay life in contemporary Tokyo in which the six men find solace in their friendship while outside battling a sometimes unsympathetic society. 

The slow burn drama waiting to tank the party revolves around the relationship between hosts Akito and Yashushi who have been together for seven years, Akito having accidentally overhead his boyfriend with another man, Kenichi, through a phone call Yasushi presumably didn’t mean to answer. Despite living together so long, Akito is not out at work and finds himself deflecting potentially invasive comments from his boss about his plans for marriage while he and a recently engaged colleague not so subtly attempt to set him up with a female co-worker who has romantic issues of her own, all of them oblivious to Akito throwing longing looks at their handsome waiter in the local izakaya. When the party begins to get out of hand and provokes a complaint from the couple’s neighbours, Akito’s hostile response implies that they have faced similar complaints before which he believes to be rooted in homophobia, that they simply object to him living there. “All our lives we’ve been trying not to cause trouble” he adds, “where do you expect us to go? Why do we have to apologise?” pushed into a moment of rebellion by the emotional intensity of the present situation that is later unexpectedly echoed by Kenichi who reminds them that they’ve suffered enough, insulted and looked down on, unable to voice their feelings freely and seeing their relationships crumble under the constant pressures of a sometimes hostile society all of which leads them to hurt each other without really meaning to. 

Yet the catalyst for all this is a naive and idealistic college student hopelessly in love with his straight best friend invited to the party after being taken under the wing of kindly bar owner Sho who introduces him to the scene and tries to help him loosen up while accepting his sexuality. Tomoya acts as a kind of judge or arbiter, only just learning the rules of this society but somehow feeling betrayed by its contradictions and hypocrisies. Only he can see that Akito is not really enjoying the party and makes several attempts to check in with him only to see something he shouldn’t have and partially misunderstand it, his illusions a little shattered as he recalibrates his internal sense of morality. Meanwhile he’s both matched and challenged by the lovelorn Masashi who has come in the company of recent hook up Naoki but dreaming of a stable relationship disappointed by Naoki’s assertion that he doesn’t do commitment while picking a fight with Sho over a disagreement about the importance of physical intimacy in romantic relationships. 

Nevertheless through all of these heated debates and fraught emotional crises the men achieve a kind of catharsis in having cleared the air and agreed to return to the sense of solidarity they had felt before only with a little more clarity. “Don’t lie to yourself about how you feel, you’ll only make yourself miserable” Sho had advised the conflicted Tomoya convincing him to join the fun by pointing out that if you don’t like it you can always go back to where you were, advice that might go as well for all as they begin to interrogate how they really feel along with the fears and anxieties that cause them to behave the way they do until approaching a moment of calm after the storm cleared with all truths aired and seemingly at least forgiven. Taking place largely within the claustrophobic and intense environment of the apartment, Kawanobe captures a naturalistic vision of contemporary gay life through the eyes of a series of jaded not-quite-middle-aged men and a naive youngster discovering both himself and a new community only to be confronted by the difficulties and contradictions of life in a society he believed to be better than it is. 

Our House Party screened as part of Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022

Original trailer (no subtitles)

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