Of all the queer love stories released this Christmas season, Netflix’s SMILEY stands heads and shoulders above the rest. After watching the sanitized don’t-frighten-the-children (or the straight) offerings from both Hallmark and Lifetime TV, it’s so refreshing to see something so authentically queer. However, its creator Guillem Clua who adapted the 8-part series from his own very successful award-winning stage play stresses it’s a gay story, but not just for gays, because first of all, it’s a love story which everyone can relate too.
This series is a typical romantic comedy, a soapy drama with (some) predictable results, but it’s also a terrific representative of an underserved genre: well-rounded LGBTQ+ material presented in a positive way.
Smiley is the story of a group of friends who live in Barcelona, and who are all looking for love, often in the wrong places. Bruno (Miki Esparbé) a serious-minded architect accidentally meets (no spoilers here) Alex (Carlos Cuevas), a gym-bunny gay bartender and they get to hook up. They couldn’t be any more opposite but even after their one-night stand ends and they both move on to other people that they cannot stop thinking about each other.
They are the two main characters but also in the story is Vero (Meritxell Calvo) the co-owner of the bar where Alex works. She and her girlfriend Patricia (Giannina Fruttero) are buying a new apartment together when she gets the ‘seven-year itch’ and insists on evaluating her life (and love). The other bar owner is Javier (Pepón Nieto) a middle-aged drag queen entertainer who thought he had given up on love but is in for a big surprise.
It’s actually quite a big cast which also includes Alex’s mother (Amparo Fernández) who has been widowed for some time and gets the wrong idea about Ramon (Ramon Pujol) who resurfaces from her past. And Albert (Eduardo Lloveras) a straight architect colleague of Bruno’s who married the boss’s daughter and now thinks he may have bitten off more than he can chew
The background of Barcelona sets it all off so beautifully but it’s the magnetic chemistry and energy between this talented ensemble of actors that have you hooked right up until the final credits roll.
Kudos to Netflix for their increasing support of such quality queer programming made by such exceptional queer talent ….. now if only someone could get the Executives at Hallmark and Lifetime to sit down and watch.
words: Roger Walker-Dack for Queerguru