'Dream Boat': Film Review

Packs plenty of heart along with the beefcake.

Tristan Ferland Milewski's documentary profiles several travelers on a weeklong cruise catering to gay men.

"Let's take the boys to sea!" announces the captain of the ship embarking on a weeklong European cruise geared specifically to gay men. That this is not your ordinary love boat is made apparent by the housekeepers leaving condoms instead of chocolates on the beds in the cabins. Tristan Ferland Milewski's engaging documentary Dream Boat chronicles one such cruise, focusing on several of its travelers whose personal issues aren't left behind on dry land.

The film's main subjects are 24-year-old Marek, a Polish personal trainer whose chiseled physique easily attracts many admirers, but who wants someone to love him for his mind as well as his body; 32-year-old Dipankar, born in India but who now lives in Dubai, where he could be put in prison because of his sexual orientation; 47-year-old Philippe, from France, who has been in a wheelchair for 20 years as a result of a bout with meningitis and doesn't let his condition prevent him from hitting the dance floor, where his seated position gives him an excellent vantage point of his fellow revelers' bulging crotches; 31-year-old Ramzi, who fled his native Palestine after being persecuted for his homosexuality and now lives with a partner in Belgium; and 42-year-old Martin, an Australian who doesn't let his HIV positive status prevent him from joyfully embracing life.

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That the film concentrates on this multi-ethnic group and their emotional and physical issues makes it clear that the filmmaker is not interested in simply exploiting the setting for its cliched camp value. But that doesn't mean that Dream Boat isn't above celebrating the setting's hedonistic aspects. After all, the first shot after the credits roll is that of a toned bare ass. The cruise is filled with such activities as the "high-heels run" on the main deck and the outfits on display often amount to little more than brightly colored jockstraps.

But such pleasure seeking comes at a price, according to the participants. One man bemoans the pressure to look good, although he points out that all one really needs is a "good dick and a good ass." Others describe their anxieties over aging and losing their looks. "You have to suffer to be beautiful," comments one older man as he's being tightly tied into a corset. Still others lament the concentration on hooking up above all else. "I never, ever felt lonely until I came on this trip," one man points out.

Dream Boat isn't fully successful in its balancing act, trying to have its beefcake and eat it, too, by toggling back and forth between emotional confessions and visual feasting on the parade of scantily clad, sculptured male bodies on display (when one traveler enthuses, "The buffet is open," it's pretty clear he's not talking about food). But the well-chosen profile subjects prove both engaging and sympathetic in their fears and desires, giving the film a much-needed emotional resonance.

Production company: Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion, ZDF, ARTE
Distributor: Strand Releasing
Director-screenwriter: Tristan Ferland Milewski
Producers: Christian Beetz
Directors of photography: Jorg Junge, Jakob Stark
Editor: Markus CM Schmidt
Composer: My Name is Claude

92 minutes