We continue our mini-series of Friday Night Film picks that champion British queer cinema in celebration of Pride Month with Ron Peck’s 1978 film Nighthawks. The 1970s was a time of liberation for the LGQBT community, when Pride marches were considered radical forms of social activism and the underground nightlife offered an exciting, albeit dangerous, form of sexual expression. Peck’s pioneering piece of queer cinema, Britain’s first feature film made from within the gay community, provides a starkly honest but less exotic outlook on what it meant to be a gay man in 70s London.
That man is Jim, a semi-closeted homosexual who is leading a double life as an ordinary Geography teacher by day while cruising London’s gay bars for romance at night. What may sound like a venturous lifestyle full of thrill, is portrayed with a far more mundane reality in Nighthawks. Jim’s habitual life, set against the backdrop of a permanently overcast and decaying capital city, fails to provide him with any sense of belonging.
On the dancefloor, courting rituals mostly consist of typically dry British small talk that eventually evolves into the blunt question “do you want to come back to mine?”. The frank nature of their hook-ups means these men struggle to form a meaningful bond beyond their matter-of-fact sexual encounters. While there is little impression that lasting romance is ever on the cards, Jim and his partners do converse over the commonality that is their marginalised existence and the deeply set sense of loneliness that continues to define them and will still resonate with gay viewers today.