The Man with the Answers aims for restraint but instead fails to either properly probe or articulate its characters.
A well-meaning and tentative entrant into the realm of slow-burn road trip romances, Stelios Kammitsis’ The Man with the Answers is perhaps most noteworthy for telling the story of an all-male relationship in which its characters never once have a discussion about sexuality. This understated tale of greek diving champion Victor (Vasilis Magouliotis) and German traveler Matthias (Anton Weil), who meet on a ferry and end up journeying together from Italy through Germany, exhibits a curiously dispassionate approach to detailing intimate connection, which frustratingly prevents its central bond from ever feeling truly vital. The script’s humdrum attitude toward interaction hardly helps matters, with prosaic dialogue that offers few opportunities to identify with either man (this is particularly true of Matthias, who, in spite of Weil’s charismatic performance, remains a bit of an enigma throughout), resulting in many inert scenes that discourage viewers from ever becoming fully immersed in their encounter.
There seems to be a real reluctance on Kammitsis’ part to offer an upfront discussion about queer identity, ably demonstrating that a film about romance can remain undefined by sexual orientation, but at the expense of threatening to alienate some of his audience. The representation of gayness in cinema has certainly come a long way since homosexual male characters were predominantly AIDS victims or the token best friend, and still, there’s something dishonest about a depiction of same-sex lovers in which they feel detached from their own sexuality. One would expect a natural point in a conversation for the subject of sex to arise between Victor and Matthias, and yet it never happens, as Kammitsis is evidently unwilling to have them relate to each other through their own experiences. And ultimately, that’s what is most conspicuously absent from The Man with the Answers, which, in an increasingly dating-app-dominated world, crucially fails to articulate the raw excitement that comes from meeting somebody in a truly organic setting.
Published as part of Before We Vanish | July 2021.