North Sea Texas enjoyed a successful run earlier this year at the Odeon Covent Garden where it was acclaimed by a long list of publications including Time Out, Total Film and Little White Lies. The film is the debut by director, Bavo Defurne (who has long worked in short films) and stars young actors, Jelle Florizoone and Mathias Vergels as the two main young boys in the film, who are learning about themselves and their emotions for each other.
For me, when I came to North Sea Texas, I had in mind last year’s LGBT success, Weekend, directed by Andrew Haigh. Both are distributed by Peccadillo Pictures, and both were acclaimed by the mainstream press during their theatrical runs (which is highly unusually for their films, that are usually pushed to the sidelines). For me, there are two similarities in the films, which are their reliance on the beautiful and highlighting beauty whenever the directors can (whether this is the characters, the dialogue, the landscape etc) and the fact that we are being told very mainstream stories (I hate the use of that word here, but it illustrates my point) and really it makes little difference that the story contains two boys. When I reviewed Weekend last year, I loved the fact that the story could have been two men, two women or one of each- the film is mainly reliant upon the emotional pull of the narrative and the discoveries that the characters have to make.
When we find our main character, Pim (played by the stunningly calm Florizoone), he is living with his single mother who spends more time caring about her men than her son and living each day with a mundane routine of nothingness. But this nothingness disappears when Pim slips into his dream world and he begins to dream of beauty queens and a brightness at the end of the tunnel. The only thing, which gets Pim through are his visits to his neighbours. The boy next door, Gino (Vergels) stands older and taller than Pim, but the two start a physical relationship behind everyone’s backs. The suggestion is even offered (by Gino) that their relationship is something of child’s play, a mere self discovery of the sexual self and yet for Pim it is so much more- he is falling for the older boy.
As well as this, Gino’s sister, Sabine harbours a long love for Pim (unknowing of her brother’s activities) and continually tries to flirt (unsuccessfully with Pim). The scenes set in their living room, when she offers him drinks and he sits as if always part of the family remain central (to me) as a major meaning behind the film. Many could have brushed this film off as an LGBT gag fest, or a story about young boys getting it off, maybe even a mere family melodrama, but this really has something more to say. The film delves somewhat deeper, sometimes uncomfortably so to make the characters (and in turn) the audience confront what it truly means to communicate and live happily with each other. As I mentioned before, the film is about discoveries. It’s about Pim working out who he truly is, which is once again thrown into disarray when the traveller, Zoltan arrives back in town and promises to take Pim away once and for all with the travelling circus. It’s about young love and the ways in which they have to combat with the world to be allowed to nurture their relationship and it’s about discovering the ways in which people live together. Shown through this microcosm in a small community, the film made me question the ways in which I live with other people.
One of the finer features of the film is the outstanding landscapes that constantly surround the characters. During the moments when the characters feel down and disconnected from the others in their community, the landscapes aids this sense of alienation by closing in and growing taller and darker. The weather grows darker, wetter and this poetic sense of emotions and reality haunts the film throughout. The landscapes can also represent a sense of beauty throughout, which many films these days tend to miss.
As for the family melodrama element that I mentioned before, there is a story surrounding both mother’s in the piece – Pim’s and Gino’s and the differences between the two characters is made majorly clear by the end of the film. What is most interesting, is that for different reasons, the boys are disconnected from their mothers and don’t really find a way back till they find each other. As for a story within the LGBT cannon, North Sea Texas manages to stand out as a piece that shouldn’t be lumbered with the stereotypes surrounding those films. There is no cliche, there is no cheese, but just a lot of emotion.
I say it’s time for LGBT cinema to be more widely acknowledged by the mainstream. This article is being placed up days after World Pride took place in London, and seeing all those people come together shows us just how far we have all come in the past twenty years. We may have releases few and far between like The Kids Are Alright, but a film like North Sea Texas deserves to be watched. Go out and get this DVD, you won’t regret it.
North Sea Texas is out on DVD on August 6th via Peccadillo Pictures
For an interview with the director of North Sea Texas, Bavo Defurne, click here.
To rent or buy North Sea Texas, right now on FRR, click here.