In parts of Asia, “boy love”—or BL, for short—has become a genre all its own, with countless new films and series releasing every year that focus on young adult gay romance and have audiences of all ages swooning.
With origins in Japanese manga known as “Yaoi,” BL stories first became a phenomenon in Thailand before exploding in popularity across South Korea, Vietnam, and beyond. In the Philippines, a 2020 web series by the name of Gameboys is widely considered the country’s first mainstream BL story.
Conceived of during the early days of the global COVID-19 pandemic, it followed a budding romance between young “gaymers” Cairo (Elijah Canlas) and Gavreel (Kokoy de Santos) who meet via a livestream gaming session and gradually fall in love—all cleverly told through “screenlife,” a.k.a what the guys are seeing and experiencing on their computer screens.
Connected through technology, Cairo and Gavreel fell for each other hard—and audiences everywhere found themselves falling for the irresistible Gameboys, too. In fact, it became such a hit that a feature-length film was green-lit in between the first and second seasons.
Released in July 2021, Gameboys: The Movie is the big pay-off for anyone who’d been invested in the gaymers’ long-distance relationship They finally get to meet in person!
Thankfully, Cairo and Gavreel’s online chemistry translates to the real world with ease, and we get to follow them on a blissful trip to the beach where they frolic in the sun—it’s all pretty dreamy stuff.
But you can’t make a movie out of a perfect beach trip where nothing goes wrong (or can you? Honestly, we’d like to see it!), and eventually the bubble has to burst. In person, the guys can’t hide behind the relative anonymity of their digital avatars, and soon they realize a relationship isn’t all kisses and giggles.
Things are complicated further when they have to share their pandemic getaway with complicated (to say the least) lovers Terrence (Kyle Velino) and Wesley (Miggy Jimenez), as well as Gavreel’s Aunt Susan (Angie Castrenc), who is…. more than a little old-fashioned to put it nicely.
And you don’t need to have seen an episode of Gameboys, for the emotional truths at the heart of Gameboys: The Movie to ring true: If you’ve ever been long-distance, if you’ve fostered a real, lasting connection online (especially through the pandemic), if you’ve ever dealt with homophobic relatives, you’ll find something to connect to in Cairo and Gavreel’s story.
The popularity of these stories in Thai television has exploded in recent years, becoming a proper phenomenon that draws in viewers from Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and beyond.
Though it premiered back in 2021, the film will have a special repertory engagement in Filipino theaters thanks to the Tingin Southeast Asian Film Festival at the end of this month.
But if you’re stateside or just can’t make the flight out to Manila by the end of the week, don’t sweat it. Gameboys: The Movie is now readily available to stream Dekkoo, HereTV, Tubi, and Vudu, or digitally rented via Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV, Google Play, and YouTube TV.
Watch the trailer for the film below: