In From The Side (2022)

Sparks fly when Mark meets Warren at the rugby club and soon the pair are embroiled in an illicit affair facing consequences on and off pitch in director Matt Carter’s In From The Side.

Breaking All The Rules

by Chris Drew

In From The Side

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Mark (Alexander Lincoln, As I Am) is an integral member of the B squad at the South London Stags, a gay rugby team, with much of his life devoted to the club.

After one match he locks eyes with Warren (Alexander King, feature debut) across the clubhouse. The pair meet that night in a club and we learn Warren is on the successful A squad but has been out with an injury. After some flirting it’s Warren who makes a confident move.

Waking up the next morning in Mark’s bed, a worked-up Warren leaves quickly after revealing his boyfriend John (Peter McPherson, feature debut) is also a Stag and cannot know what happened. Later in a surprise reveal we discover that Mark too has a boyfriend, Richard (Peter Hammond, feature debut), whose apartment Mark lives in.

Later Mark explains to Warren that he and Richard have an open relationship with rules but admits in this case he has not followed them. Their lustful attraction escalates to illicit stolen kisses, secret dates, longing glances across a room, all with the fear of being seen and caught out.

An away match in Cardiff signals significant drama when Warren is unexpectedly picked to play for the B squad, much to Mark’s initial anguish. Mark leaves a team night out early to join Warren in his hotel room when he’s meant to be sharing with fellow Stag Henry (William Hearle, feature debut), causing suspicion when Mark doesn’t answer the door.

Journeys to away matches help illustrate the sense of family and brotherhood between the Stags, which also serves to raise the stakes over the central affair, despite Warren’s boyfriend John interestingly being left as a very peripheral character.

Several of Mark and Warren’s fellow Stags play significant roles; Henry’s alcohol struggles and unspoken unrequited crush on Mark are a constant thread, goofy Pinky (Pearse Egan, Cyber Bride) provides the team with light relief while Jimmy (Christopher Sherwood, The Lost) brings gravitas in his post-match speeches.

The repeated rugby rituals throughout feel authentic; frequent floodlit training sessions, matches in the rain on muddy pitches, locker-room motivational talks, cooling down in the showers, post-match formal drinks with man-of-the-match announcements and then heading out on the town afterwards.

While Carter’s film doesn’t always strike quite the right balance of sports film vs relationship drama – we learn early on that the club manager (Tom Murphy, feature debut) doesn’t want to have a B squad – but the dynamic slow-motion shots of rugby action and use of several actors with rugby experience are effective in displaying the power and athleticism of the sport.

Alexander Lincoln makes a handsome and charismatic lead as Mark, believable as a rugby player and in portraying in compelling ways Mark’s inner conflict, his lust and attraction for Warren and ‘bromances’ with his teammates.

As the hyper-masculine Warren, who is surprisingly the one who becomes more emotional, Alexander King is very watchable and plays well opposite Lincoln.

The film does feel slightly overlong, a third act trip to Mark’s parents in Switzerland feels unnecessarily extended, and, like all infidelity dramas, events career on towards an inevitable fallout.

The Kickstarter-funded project is a major labour of love for writer/director/producer Matt Carter, who also performs songs on the soundtrack, is an extra and created the end-credits animation, amongst his many roles on the film.

In From The Side is engaging throughout and should satisfy both rugby fans and those who enjoy gay-themed relationship dramas.

In From the Side premiered at the 2022 BFI Flare Festival, and opened in UK cinemas on 16 September 2022 on limited release.

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