It’s been over 20 years since Steve McLean’s feature film directing debut Postcards from America which was based on the writings of David Wojnarowicz was released. His sophomore feature Postcards from London, that he wrote as well as directed, may have been intended primarily as an intriguing flight of his very vivid imagination (which it is) but after viewing it the overwhelming feeling is that this ended up as a vehicle to show off the remarkable talent of its young star Harris Dickinson.
He plays Jim an intelligent teenager who feels trapped in his small suburban hometown and so runs off to seek a new life in the bright lights of London with people who also like the finer things in life as he does. However, it starts off very badly as on his first night he sleeps on the street he gets mugged and robbed and so is grateful when another homeless man suggests that he may be a perfect fit for The Raconteurs an elite posturing group of male escorts that appear to rule Soho.
Their raison d’etre is to mix their sexual services with a heavy dose of art and literature to appease their clientele of older artistically bent. After a crash course in art history, Jim very quickly becomes extremely popular amongst the clients and is even adopted as a muse by one of the artists who is blinded by his beauty.
Being immersed in so many old masters, Jim soon discovers that he is suffering from a rare and strange condition known as Stendhal Syndrome. It manifests in a way that makes him not only just hypersensitive to the art but when he faints he can vividly imagine himself of actually in the painting too. An ability that people then want to use him for to help detect art forgeries.
This highly stylised movie is almost like a work of art itself with stunning sets from production designer Ollie Tiong who has created a rather glorious imaginary vision of London’s Soho. McLean’s witty script is peppered with intellectual cultural references to constantly remind us in this fantasy world of his, the boys are more than just pretty to look at. Although Dickinson surely is a thing of beauty that the camera (and everybody else) absolutely love. For him, this is a far different role than the one in his remarkable breakthrough performance last year in ‘Beach Rats’ but with his wonderfully riveting turn here, this young star re-affirms that he really is a major acting talent.
MacLean’s film has created a world where male hustling is not only considered almost respectable, but he has also removed every hint of grit and grime that usually accompany such stories. It makes for a refreshing change, although we are slightly apprehensive if it is one that audiences will generally welcome.