Nathan Adloff on Miles: ‘It’s a Nineties period movie, not just a gay film’

Amy Ashenden

Miles director, Nathan Adloff, has said he wants the film to be considered 'a Nineties period movie' rather than be labelled as a gay film.

Set in the Midwest, Miles brings heart-warming nineties nostalgia with a coming-of-age tale about growing up gay in a small town with dreams of big city Chicago.

Fresh from its UK premiere at BFI Flare, Adloff spoke to the Standard about why now is the perfect time for LGBT filmmaking – but said he doesn’t want it to be pigeon-holed as a gay film.

“I think it’s an inspiring and encouraging time with Moonlight winning Best Picture at the Oscars, and LGBT films being more broadly seen,” he said.

“It’s my first time in London and it’s fantastic to show the film at BFI Flare. The response was really great.

Director Nathan Adloff speaks to the Standard at BFI Flare

“I don’t really see this film as a gay film, I think it’s a crossover film, it’s a universally-relatable story and the main character just happens to be gay.

“I would be doing myself and the community a disservice if I made him straight or fully embraced it being a straight movie but I think it’s universally relatable.”

Adloff pushed for a strong Nineties feel for the film, often collecting props from second-hand shops, despite producers’ warnings that it would be easier to create a modern-looking set on the film’s small budget.

Miles is set in 1999 (Cranium Entertainment)

He said: “It takes place in 1999 – it’s a period movie even though the Nineties don’t feel that far away. It was important to me to retain how communication was very different in the nineties, with dial-up Internet, AOL, chat rooms, and instant messaging being a very new thing.”

Based on much of Adloff’s own life, Miles follows the coming out of a young teen as he attempts to get a college scholarship by controversially joining the girls’ volleyball team.

“The town and other teams get into a lot of uproar and think it’s unfair and try to get him kicked off [the team] and make him ineligible for the scholarship,” Adloff explained.

“The two big parts that are true are that I did play on the girls’ volleyball team in my very small town school in Illinois, and also my father did pass away and spent some of my college money on a woman for a car, leaving the burden to my mother. And the plan for me going to college in Chicago changed, although there wasn’t this scholarship.

“I just set out to tell a truthful story about my life. I didn’t actually have that much of a hard time – surprisingly, being in such a small Midwest town – my mother was a teacher at the school so they loved her and couldn’t mess with me. So I was in my little bubble.

“There were scenes that were really surreal shooting, like my father having a heart attack and passing away.

Miles joins a girls' volleyball team in the hope of gaining a college scholarship (Cranium Entertainment)

“It was very much like how it happened in real life so I just had to kind of step outside of myself and make it work.

“I think the message of the movie is about trusting your gut and not let a town of people tell you otherwise – fight against the grain if you need to.”

Despite being a small budget film, Miles stars Molly Shannon, famed for roles in Never Been Kissed and the Dying Girl, alongside Gone Girl's Missi Pyle and Stephen Root – something Adloff was over the moon about.

Molly Shannon in Miles (Cranium Entertainment)

He said: “I had a really great casting director – Rich Delia casts a lot of big movies like Pitch Perfect and it was just the right fit. Three days later I was having coffee with Molly Shannon and she said yes.

“I’m still pinching myself that I got to work with her and other people in the film because they were all people that were on TV in the nineties, which actually kind of goes with the theme of the film.

“It was surreal but she makes you feel very comfortable and we were friends straight away.”

Miles is set for UK cinema release this summer.