Writer-director Tomasz Wasilewski’s "Floating Skyscrapers" picked up prizes on the European gay film fest circuit last year, with deserved acclaim for the fact that it is the first film from Poland that address gay themes and indicts antigay sentiments in that country. In addition to being a message film about cultural homophobia and personal acceptance, it is a stylish cinematic, if not a fully fleshed out, drama.
The story is of a repressed athlete Kuba (Mateusz Banksias) secretly struggling to accept himself as a gay man. He is in a passionate and volatile relationship with Sylwia (Marta Nieradkiewicz). They live with his mother Ewa (Katarzyna Herman) as he pursues a promising competitive swimming career. If he works at it hard enough, he is identifying as straight, even if he is in denial about his anonymous hookups cruising men’s rooms.
When Kuba isn’t training, running or having sex, he is out smoking and drinking, and could be using performance enhancing drugs. Sylwia takes him to an art gallery soiree where he meets Michal (Bartosz Gelner). Later, when all the straight couples are drinking champagne and chatting, he can’t take his eyes off him.
They hook up later to smoke a joint. Kuba gives Michal a shotgun and they get to some very veiled flirting, but end up passing out in the car. The drama starts to get sweaty as Sylwia gets more jealous of their friendship.
Kuba expects her to accept his relationship with Michal as his friend, and she feels completely threatened. He compensates by making passionate love to her, but mostly he is avoiding their intimacies, and he is emotionally conflicted. Other family members get involved as Michal’s mother tries to be supportive of their love and he finally comes out to his stoic father.
Meanwhile, the athletic pressure is on as Kuba’s coach tells him to "Focus, this is your chance." Later, he has a panic attack during a meet and there is a witty exchange as the coach dresses him down in the background while the sync swimming is going in the foreground.
Banasiuk and Gelner have great screen chemistry and Wasilewski writes minimal dialogue to convey how attracted the characters are to each other. Nieradkiewicz somehow gives Sylwia greater dimension beyond the part as written, as the clinging, jealous girlfriend.
Banasiuk (or his body double if he had one, which seems unlikely given that this is a low budget film) has the physique of an elite swimmer. He is also very comfortable in nude scenes.
Despite some predictable contrivances, Wasilewski is obviously an auteur and has made an emotionally realistic interior drama of a young man struggling with his sexuality in a homophobic culture. "Floating Skyscrapers" has a wonderful house electronica soundscape by Baasch that fits well with the dynamic cinematography by Kuba Kijowski, featuring panoramic backdrops of Warsaw to contrast the water imagery, from teardrops to oceans and of course, hot underwater race shots.