"Cal" is the sequel to Christian Martin’s sexually-charged "Shank." This film is written, produced, and directed by Martin so it is slightly different in tone from "Shank." It is set to the backdrop of the Occupy movement and the general financial unrest of the times. Relationships and the complexity of love seem to be a larger focus than "Shank’s" overt sexuality.
Cal (Wayne Virgo) returns to Bristol from France after the events of "Shank." His mother is dying in the hospital, and her house is overrun by her wacky border Aunty Jane (Emily Corcoran). He tries to help Jason (Tom Payne), a young street hustler, but instead gets blackmailed by his pimp, Ivan (Daniel Brocklebank).
This film is a bit slow in pace, but it really lives in this tragic, poverty-stricken world. It focuses on the complexities of Cal’s relationships. There is a ton of unsavory characters that make Cal a lot more sympathetic. His mother may be dying, but she struggles between love for her son and general homophobia. Jane is generally untrustworthy, and inappropriate, and yet, at her core, there is a love for Cal and his mother. The reality of these relationships really pushes the story farther without really relying on overt sexuality. These people are defined by their poor choices and inability to express themselves, and that really gives them a pathos that keeps you invested in the story.
The story focuses on some larger issues of class struggles and how the worldwide economic recession has affected individuals. We see Cal as he struggles to find money to support his family. Despite the fact that the street hustler trope gets grossly overused in gay cinema this film actually focuses on the financial helplessness that leads to that choice. It isn’t glorified but instead presented as a last resort.
Overall, "Cal" touches on some really dark and sordid parts of society while still presenting a heartfelt and optimistic view of relationships. It’s occasionally sad but a very entertaining film.