“The buffet is open,” a delighted guest declares on the opening day of a weeklong gay cruise through the Mediterranean Sea. It’s the meet and greet, where men parade on deck wearing the flag of their home country and not much else. But that double entendre is a rare instance of campy humor in Dream Boat. For all the outrageous cosplay and assless trunks on display, director Tristan Ferland Milewski is more interested in exploring the interior lives of gay men.
In his sincere and reverent feature documentary debut, Milewski films taut, muscled flesh as if it’s finely chiseled classical statuary. Other than one very public blow job, Dream Boat contains more dance floor grinding than Grindr hookups; flirting is the norm and sex isn’t guaranteed. Milewski uses a recurring motif of a sun-kissed, diverse group of men standing in formation, their contented expressions captured in slow motion while fears (aging, illness) and insecurities (body image, emotional satisfaction) are revealed in voiceover.
On-camera interviewees are primarily outsiders (including immigrants from restrictive countries) who chafe at the physical conformity epitomized by the cruise’s idyll of young, buff virility. For couples, this getaway immerses them in an international community of acceptance and solidarity, where being out and proud is the blissful norm. The single men trying to find a meaningful relationship amid the happy hedonists see the possibilities and limitations of the cruise’s escapism. Their dreamboat may not materialize, but Dream Boat offers them an alluring, global vision of gay life in the flesh.
Review by Serena Donadoni
Released on November 3, 2017 by Strand Releasing
First published in The Village Voice, 2017.