›› Sebastian - aka: När Alla Vet - Everyone Already Knows ‹‹

a film by Svend Wam.

1995 | 88 mins | Norway.

an ever so tender, if rose-tinted view of the coming out process.

Dave says:

Do you ever get tired of seemingly endless tales of gay relationships ending in a downward spiral of drink, drugs and emotional woe? Well if you do, then here's a film that's the polar opposite of relationship blues, being an ever so tender, if rose-tinted view of the coming out process.

For welcome to the world of Sebastian (Hampus Björck); a handsome teenager who spends his days hanging out with his close circle of friends and in particular former girlfriend Lisbeth (Rebecka Hemse) and best friend and all round hunk Ulf (Nicolai Cleve Broch). Yet something has changed; for what should be days spent free from the worries of life, have for Sebastian turned into moments of intense solitude and contemplation. No wonder that his concerned parents are delighted when he comes home with Ulf, so pleased in fact that they leave the two alone. And boy do they take advantage of a free house. For doing what teens do best when left by themselves; they eat, they drink, act like rock stars, along the way sharing a foam-filled bath together - er run that bit by me again!

Yet such adolescent fun comes to an abrupt end when Sebastian plants his lips firmly on those of his best friend. As Ulf makes a prompt exit stage left, his parents enter stage right, along the way asking Sebastian if he's interested in guys? The answer is - he thinks so. Indeed, he knows he is at heart. Yet in accepting his true sexuality, the question remains whether he has the confidence to reveal his gay self to his friends and moreover, to the world outside his front door?

Both fun and poignant in equal measure and complete with a wonderfully natural, if somewhat sugarcoated performance from Björck in the title role, even if Cleve Broch almost steals the show as the supportive straight best friend that frankly all gay teens should have, this feature in certain ways could be viewed as Norway's answer to the quintessential feel-good coming out classic Beautiful Thing. Yet such a comparison is only just in terms of both films depicting an optimistic view of the coming out process. For that's where comparisons end, given this film varies in almost every other aspect and in particular by setting its social stall within a middle class environment far removed from the working class backdrop of the Jonathan Harvey narrative. Only if you look closer, both features pay specific attention to the act of to thy ownself, being true, even if in this instance such feelings are emphasised by way of a failed suicide attempt, after which Sebastian asks himself why is he so afraid of showing the world who he is? It's a question that's all the more pertinent, given both his parents and friends already suspect the sexuality that Sebastian neither wants them, nor himself at first, to acknowledge.

Not to be confused with the Derek Jarman homoerotic homage to the legend of the Christian martyr that is Sebastiane; nor for that matter the James Fanizza 2017 gay film of the same name, amongst others, this marks instead a saccharine styled view of the difficult and at times painful process of coming to terms with your sexuality being different to those around you. True, few teenagers would have a circle of so remarkably non-judgemental friends and family, as that depicted here. Then again, this is a work that was made to directly address the alarming rate of suicides amongst the LGBTQ youth of Norway and to deliver the core message that - it's okay to be gay. That it did so at a time when many a country was going out of their way to avoid addressing the issue, is to the credit of both cast and crew and to the novel by Per Knutsen upon which this feature is based. Simply uplifting and in its own way, a pure sweet delight.

›› screened as part of the 11th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival; 1997
›› revised: Thursday, 17th March, 2022.

Gay Visibility - overt | Nudity - from the waist up | Overall - file under ... 4 stars

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