“LOEV has its heart in the right place but suffers from uneven storytelling and a lack of female characters, both of which hurt its Mediaversity score.”
Title: LOEV (2015)
Director: Sudhanshu Saria 👨🏾🇮🇳🌈
Writer: Sudhanshu Saria 👨🏾🇮🇳🌈
Reviewed by Li 👩🏻🇺🇸
I wanted to like LOEV more than I actually did. I’m usually game for angst between star-crossed lovers, but either I was missing the right cultural touchpoints—I am the first to admit to being an outsider to queer Indian culture—or this young director simply has room to grow before his characters resonate consistently. Namely, I didn’t understand the compulsions between either of the primary relationships displayed. Between the lanky, free-spirited Sahil (Dhruv Ganesh) and his hunky but dour, workaholic friend Jai (Shiv Pandit), the film sets up their friendship as one with deep waters that sometimes flood with violence. Yet I found their constant sniping, sullen silences, and irritation with each other counter to my own preconceptions of what constitutes a deep, complicated friendship. Beyond the odd, softer moments which do succeed in portraying love, Sahil and Jai otherwise don't even seem to even enjoy each other’s company.
Neither did I understand the relationship between Sahil and his boyfriend Alex (Siddharth Menon). Sahil disdains of him in nearly every scene, with Alex gratuitously portrayed as a clown through garish clothing or closeups of him shoveling fistfuls of potato chips into his mouth. Without any indication that Sahil deals with insecurities, which would have explained his need to be in a relationship, I simply couldn’t understand why he bothered with Alex.
I would score this a 2 (the cinematography is appropriately wistful and I appreciate the peek into modern Indian culture without the Bollywood spit-shine) but will compromise with IMDB’s slightly higher user rating for a category score of 2.5/5.
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? NO
This film has a small cast. Even so, female characters are head-scratchingly absent from LOEV. Are there really so few women in Mumbai or in the state of Maharashtra?
Since Mediaversity is viewed from an American point of view, non-Western films will always score well on Race. LOEV especially gives some cool insight into the mixed use of Hindi and English by Mumbaikars, as well as a look at the cultural anxiety of having India’s best and brightest leave for London or New York City, as Jai does.
However, LOEV stops there, preferring to look inwards rather than further exploring the globalization of India and how different nationalities coexist or clash.
The crux of LOEV is the portrayal of queer men in a country that is hostile to such leanings. As Guy Lodge explains on The Vulture, “it remains something of a defiant political act to make a gay-focused film in India, where homosexuality is still constitutionally decreed to be “against the order of nature.”
To that end, I defer entirely to the director’s life experience and applaud him for this sensitive, complicated, and deeply personal film that bleeds honesty in every scene.
Mediaversity Grade: C- 3.13/5
LOEV has its heart in the right place but suffers from uneven storytelling and a lack of female characters, both of which hurt its Mediaversity score. I did enjoy the breathtaking views of the Maharashtra mountains and some of the small, sincere moments between Sahil and Jai, but ultimately wasn’t convinced by the relationships in this film.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed the lens into a world so unlike my own, finding this viewing both educational and escapist. Recently made available on Netflix, check out LOEV if you’re in the mood for visceral auteurism.