The South London Stags is a cash-strapped gay rugby club struggling to keep its newly-formed B team afloat.
But when secret love hits the locker room, there’s a roller coaster ride for the whole team in Matt Carter’s engaging film. Emmerdale star Alexander Lincoln plays the moody young hunk Mark, who’s trapped in an unhappy relationship with a detached, well-off businessman who is seldom at home.
What Carter, who co-writes with Adam Silver, is setting up is a situation where Mark is looking for another kind of love. And so too is Warren (a film debut for Alexander King) – star of the A team, even hunkier than Mark, and as it turns out, even more mixed up.
A chance physically intimate encounter in, where else but a toilet, leads to an instant and pretty frenetic night in bed, with all the usual regrets and embarrassment the morning after.
But we’re left in no doubt in this slow-moving romance that this secret liaison will continue, with ups and downs until a dramatic climax is reached that rivals the climaxes in the bedroom.
King is terrific as the unpredictable, slightly dangerous and arrogant guy who hides his weaknesses below a brash facade. Lincoln is more studied, more thoughtful and does the anguish thing really well – we really feel for him in a way we don’t for Warren.
When the two manage to manoeuvre a Christmas together with Mark’s parents in Switzerland, it seems that romance will blossom and grow. But of course that would be dramatically boring, and there has to be a great reveal and confrontation to make the tension work.
Though the rugby games and the club’s survival are a secondary issue, Carter directs the rugby practices and raw physicality of their matches with a choreographed, balletic beauty that seems contradictory, but works superbly.
And do Mark and Warren live happily ever after ? Well you’ll have to catch the film to find out, but as Mark’s mother tells him: “a relationship born from deception only continues to create more”.
In From The Side is available on Netflix.