To love is to risk. With Valentine’s day right here, love will inevitably find its way into our conversations. Romantic gestures, flower bouquets, heart shaped chocolate boxes and candlelit dinners for our significant other – this is the cliché you might be thinking of. And while I can appreciate a good cliché, it is maybe time we stray off the beaten path.
Noel Alejandro – Berlin, February 11, 2022. Romance is typically for two, but some don’t mind an occasional third. The more the merrier, as people say. That said, I’m pleased to announce my new film, Only Friends, starring the ever so charming Francisco Gabriel, Enol Domènech and Pau Alonso. In all honesty, releasing Only Friends for Valentine’s day wasn’t what I planned on initially. Yet I do think it connects well to the topic, even serving as a counterpoint to it. An “anti-Valentine’s day” film, if you may. Not that I object to the idea of love or romance. In love there is no “right” or “wrong” way. More than anything I’m a firm believer of people finding their own path to hell. In other words, whatever floats your boat. Just remember to have fun while you’re at it.
The story in Only Friends follows a regular meet-up between partners Hugo and Pablo and their no-strings-attached friend Jesús, which takes a turn when Jesús reveals his plans to make an OnlyFans account. Curiosity takes the best of the couple as they probe his motivations. Laughter, clatter and playful remarks fill the room with excitement as their conversation progresses. A playful invitation to film together follows. Nothing can ever stay hidden in front of the camera. The question is: is it rolling?
“In love there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way. Find your own path to hell, just remember to have fun while you’re at it.”
In the film, the couple composed of the characters Hugo and Pablo don’t discuss their arrangement. It is deliberately left unspoken, a part of the story left to the viewers to deduce. I sought to convey a feeling of their relationship being alive and natural. It is a loving relationship like any other – they support each other, learn and grow together – all things that are (also) possible beyond the limits of monogamy. Let’s face it, love is love in all its forms and at the end of the day, there’s nothing natural about being with one person at a time.
When it comes to sex, beyond monogamy, our society is also obsessed with privacy. Maybe that’s part of the reason we’re captivated by the ones who have the guts to be stark naked online. Or why it is sometimes quite thrilling to send a nude. Here it is, all that you’ve zealously kept covered up for years, now readily available to anybody with an interest, an internet connection and (for some) a willingness to pay for it. Being secretive about sex and nudity is cultural – something society has instilled in us rather than being a naturally arising feeling. In such an environment shame, guilt and fear can dominate our sexuality. I would lie if I say I don’t fall victim to those feelings myself, even though the nature of my work presumes the opposite.
In the movie, Pau Alonso’s character Hugo manifests these frustrations. He is the most reserved towards his friend’s decision to start an OnlyFans account. For Hugo, taking his shirt off in front of his parents, something that isn’t inherently sexually charged, is already unimaginable, let alone baring it all out for the internet. Even discussing sex with his family invokes feelings of shame and guilt. His partner Pablo teases him about his discomfort and the inconsistencies in his thinking: his parents are human beings and human beings tend to have sex—it’s only natural. Still, he despises thinking about his family in those terms. Many of us also struggle to bridge this gap and prefer to keep these two worlds separate. But isn’t it ultimately a harmful division to make?
“Maybe learning to talk to our families about sex is the key to the next sexual revolution.”
I recently had a conversation with my sister about sex, something we’d avoided talking openly about before. It felt like it was the first time we acknowleged to each other as humans, and most importantly as siblings, that we’re sexual beings. Do my viewers also reflect on the discomfort around sex they might feel towards their families?. Maybe learning to talk to our families about sex is the key to the next sexual revolution, as my mentor Erika Lust, points out in her pedagogical project.
I digress. Working on Only Friends was delightful and I hope it is just as delightful to watch. I’m looking forward to your comments!