With movie theaters across the country shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic, “Almost Love” isn’t getting its planned cinematic rollout.
Still, actors Scott Evans and Augustus Prew are hopeful that viewers will embrace the romantic comedy as a welcome relief from the news cycle, even if it means doing so from the comfort of their homes.
Written and directed by Mike Doyle, “Almost Love” made the 2019 film festival rounds under the working title “Sell By.” Having garnered positive buzz, the film was slated for a big screen release April 3, but it pivoted instead to Amazon and other video-on-demand outlets last week.
The movie follows seven New Yorkers, each of whom is at a crossroads in their romantic lives. The focal point in this friendship circle is a gay couple, Adam (played by Evans) and Marklin (Prew), whose relationship is showing signs of distress as it hits the five-year mark.
Hoping to make a name for himself in Manhattan’s art world, Adam takes a stable, if unfulfilling, “ghost painting” gig under established artist Ravella Brewer (Patricia Clarkson), who passes off his work as her own. Marklin, meanwhile, surpasses his boyfriend in income and stature as a social media influencer but hides pain from his past.
Together, the men find comfort in Adam’s sister, Elizabeth (Kate Walsh), and brother-in-law, Damon (Chaz Lamar Shepherd). Pals Cammy (Michelle Buteau), Henry (Colin Donnell) and Haley (Zoë Chao) also provide solace, even as they individually grapple with similar challenges.
In contrast to other films that explore LGBTQ themes, “Almost Love” touches on its characters’ sexuality only briefly. Instead, the movie emphasizes the hurdles both same-sex and heterosexual couples face when attempting to maintain emotional intimacy.
“The gay relationship isn’t the supporting relationship, isn’t the punchline, isn’t the stereotype,” Evans, the younger brother of “Captain America” star Chris Evans, said. “For me, it’s an uncompromised look at that relationship. It’s really about the money struggles and sharing a mortgage and having a house and sharing friends.”
Compared with recent hits like “Call Me by Your Name” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Almost Love” is also an anomaly in that its queer protagonists are played by actors who identify as gay offscreen. Doyle, currently seen on NBC’s “New Amsterdam,” said this was a deliberate choice.
“Much progress has been made in casting, yet having out leads is still considered bold,” he told HuffPost last year. “It shouldn’t be.”
Prew, whose credits include Netflix’s “Special,” said Doyle’s interest in combating Hollywood’s “unspoken homophobia” convinced him to sign on.
“Straight actors get to play gay roles, but gay actors oftentimes don’t even get a look for straight roles,” Prew told HuffPost. “They don’t even get to audition. That’s a major problem. We’re in a time where we need affirmative action on that front, so this is a movie that’s part of that change. I’m proud of that.”
True to the rom-com genre, “Almost Love” ends on an optimistic note for each of its seven principal characters. Those expecting Adam and Marklin to drive off into the sunset, however, may be surprised — whether or not the two men get what they want (or deserve) by the end credits is open to interpretation.
As bittersweet as the film’s conclusion may be, Evans and Prew said they believe a happy ending awaits both of their characters and added that they’ve discussed reprising their roles in a possible sequel or series follow-up. (The pair’s palpable chemistry on-screen has translated into a real-life friendship, and they also co-starred on Hulu’s horror series “Into the Dark” last year.)
For now, however, they’ll be pleased if “Almost Love” leaves audiences feeling “uplifted,” particularly during this period of extreme self-isolation.
“I think being able to escape into film and TV is a very important tool right now, whether that’s a few laughs here, a good cry there,” Evans said. “This is something I wish I had to watch when I was a kid, when I was going through my tough times in college and coming out.”
“I wish it could’ve come out in happier times,” Prew added. “But I think it’ll be an antidote to the overwhelming nihilism that’s permeating through everyone. The reason you rally behind this relationship isn’t because of the current status of the relationship. It’s because of the memories, the dynamic, the fun and the sense of community you get from the ensemble. It’s a group of friends that I want to be a part of.”
Watch the “Almost Love” trailer below: