What an unexpectedly good movie. Iím not enamoured of British movies in general, but this one really surprised me. Reminiscent of Beautiful Thing, it tells the story of two grammar school boys Stephen and John. Stephen is gay, hiding this from parents and friends. Intelligent and lonely he cruises the local gents, picking up the occasional man, whom he immediately romanticises until yet again let down by the harsh realities of life. One day, heís passed a note through the wall, replies and agrees to meet the guy. It turns out to be the gorgeous, popular sports jock head boy John. John is so deeply in the closet he canít even sit on the same bench with Stephen, despite having sent him a note clearly cruising for sex. Eventually, John canít help himself and begins a relationship with Stephen. Both only sixteen, they have all the normal teenage problems as well as having this secret life.
The film is well acted by the lead Stephen, although some of the other performances are a little shaky. It has some stereotypical elements, which rang a bit hollow for me such as the fat fag-hag best friend whoís always good for a laugh and the thuggish jocks that bully Stephen. Johnís blossoming relationship with Stephen, which was incredibly naturalistic more than made up for these flaws.
This is the film that should be shown in every school to help overcome the fear of being gay. Stephen makes an impassioned plea for acceptance that he shouldnít have to make. He should be allowed to love any person he wants to love, and to show that love like every other teenager: writing their names on your books, holding hands, taking them to the dance. Itís so bloody unfair that this still canít happen, despite us being in another century from the damaging homophobia of Brokeback Mountain in 1963.† The damage that denial of genuine teenage feelings can bring is very well presented.
Ultimately supposed to be an uplifting coming of age film, I actually found it quite sad. I would like to revisit these characters a few years later, to see how they are surviving. I fear some of them will not be doing all that well.†
Excellent and very thought provoking film which, unfortunately, probably wonít be seen by those in whom it ought to provoke that thought.
ďItís only love.† Whatís everyone so scared of?Ē
A really good British film about what itís like growing up gay in an English New Town in the late 90s.† Sweet, tender, poignant and funny, it made me laugh and cry and at the end left a lovely warm glow.† Excellent but low-key performances, interesting characters and believable dialogue/situations capture emerging adolescent sexuality and the longing for love and acceptance all of us feel whether weíre gay or straight.
Steven (Ben Silverstone) is 16 and gay.† A nice middle-class kid, heís known since he was 11 years old.† Itís not a problem and heís happy.† What is, however, seriously threatening his well being and the likelihood of finding that special someone is the fact he canít tell anyone else about it, except for (the obligatory) best friend Linda, another outsider like himself, set apart because sheís fat (gorgeous though and confident so for her it isnít an issue).†
All Steven wants is to do something about the fact heís gay.† To have sex, yes, but more than that to find true love like Romeo & Juliet in the play theyíre studying in English class (this couldíve been clumsy but the point isnít belaboured so it works).†
First off he gets cruised by an older (very attractive) man in the toilets of the local park, a popular spot for clandestine pick-ups.† Fine so far as it goes, but itís not enough for Steven.† He wants the whole deal.† And quite right too.† Good to see the point made that gay kids are just like straight ones, sex obsessed but learning to distinguish the difference between love and lust, and how much more satisfying is sex with emotional commitment and exchange of feelings along with other things.
Looking to repeat this enjoyable experience, but stood up by the man, Steven manages another casual encounter.† Except this oneís more complicated.† John (Brad Gorton) is Head Boy at Stevenís school, athletic, a babe magnet, handsome and very macho, unlike willowy nerd Steven (heís beautiful too).† John struggles with his desire to repeat an experience he had the previous year on a school trip in Cornwall:† that time he ran away but the urge is strong and he canít fight anymore.
So we probably know how this is going to play; but a certain predictability in no way detracts from the story because itís done so well, with honesty, perfectly capturing the awkwardness and tension of adolescence, heightened feelings, confusion and self-doubt.† There are nice comic touches, like Stevenís friend confusing him about sex when they were 10, his dad being a Dr Who fanatic, and Lindaís ongoing struggle to pass her driving test (another obvious but nonetheless effective metaphor for coming of age).
Itís all about lies and deception, how trying to live a life that isnít yours just doesnít work and makes everyone suffer (just like Brokeback Mountain).†
As the pressure mounts Steven unravels like the tangled web of lies heís caught in. John insists their relationship has to be secret.† Steven, in the throes of first love, wants everyone to knowÖto take his lover to a family wedding like he could if John were a girl.† Heís scared to tell his parents heís gay in case they reject him because heís not the son they thought they had.† And John, like Ennis Del Mar, is ruled by HIS fear and self-loathing, even to siding with homophobic bullies rather than be exposed, guilt making him feel everyone is watching.†
Another film to touch hearts like Brokeback Mountain, exposing the pain of gay youth, how trying to pretend messes them up, and affects everything from relationships to schoolwork.† Easy to see why depression and suicide remain common in gay adolescents even though we like to think our society is more open and tolerant than before.† Until gay kids can see others like them openly handholding and kissing, accepted as natural and normal itís always going to be like that, and they will pretend to be who theyíre not in order to be accepted, when of course they should be loved unconditionally.†
The story builds to a tense and moving climax, at a school event where John is competing in athletics and Steven receiving an award from a local paper for an essay he wrote about growing up: a tissue of lies, the life he imagines other boys have whoíre not like him.† Will he find courage to come out, and will John join him in freedom, acknowledging their love as real?† Or will they end up like Stevenís trick in the park, married with family sneaking off to have desperate sex with eager schoolboys? Youíll have to watch the film to find out. †No graphic scenes at all but romantic and sexy.