Review: 'All Boys Aren't Blue' a Dramatic Reading and Healing Tonic

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Sunday October 10, 2021

'All Boys Aren't Blue'
'All Boys Aren't Blue'  (Source:Outfest Los Angeles)

The title essay of George M. Johnson's 2020 collection of memoirs and essays, "Boys Aren't Blue," gets a dramatic reading in this short film.

Though only about 36 minutes in length, "All Boys Aren't Blue" offers three actors — Dyllón Burnside, Bernard David Jones, and Thomas Hobson — reading out sections from the memoir. Burnside introduces us to the five-year-old Matthew (a Biblically-sourced middle name his Nanny insisted Johnson should have), thrusting us into the flow of the narrative with the words, "I was five years old when my teeth got kicked out." This, he tells us, was his "first trauma," but it wasn't the original trauma that has affected generations of African Americans. The legacy of that trauma, he goes on to explain, is a deeply-rooted homophobia that contributed to Johnson being "a child who rarely smiled," and has scarred countless "queer Black boys".

It was Nanny, David (in the role of a slightly older Johnson) tells us, who made sure that Johnson, as "different" as he was and as socially isolated, received familial love and support. Nanny liked to say she loved all her grandchildren differently, because they were all different people; she wasn't being coy or disingenuous. Love and acceptance are highly personal by definition. What passes for love and acceptance unfortunately, is often tied not to who a person is, but how well that person fulfills the expectations imposed on them by others. Not so Nanny: When she said she loved her grandkids, she meant it, and Johnson wasn't the only LGBTQ family member Nanny looked out for.

That same sense of connection and acceptance — of family, in other words — was hard to find in the wider world. As Hobson tells us (depicting the college-age Johnson), it took years to find a circle of friends who would stand by him no matter what. Until then he struggled with anxiety and internalized homophobia. Even joining a Black fraternity, where he found his circle of friends, came with challenges, as when a fraternity higher-up informed him imperiously that "that faggot shit" wasn't to be tolerated, a crude and disappointing response. But that closed-minded decree was met with something extraordinary: The unwavering support of Johnson's fraternity brothers.

This uplifting short is a healing tonic.

"All Boys Aren't Blue" screens at NewFest (NYC) and the Seattle Queer Film Festival

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.