a tender, if rose-tinted view of the coming out process
Welcome to the world of Sebastian; a handsome teenage youth who spends his days hanging out with his friends and inparticular former girlfriend Lizabeth and best friend and all round hunk Ulf. Yet something in his life has changed. For what should be days spent free from the worries of life, have turned into moments of intense solitude and contemplation. No wonder that his worried parents are delighted when he comes home with Ulf, so pleased in fact that they leave the two alone. And boy does they take advantage of a free house. For doing what teenagers do best; they eat, they drink, they wrestle, along the way sharing a foam-filled bath together - er run that bit by me again!
Yet such adolescent fun abruptly ends when Sebastian plants his lips firmly on those of his best friend. As Ulf makes a prompt exit, his parents come to ask Sebastian if he's interested in guys? The answer is - he thinks so. Indeed he knows so at heart. Yet in accepting that his sexuality is different to those around him, the question remains whether he has the confidence to be his homosexual self to his close friends and to the outside world?
Said by some to be Norway's answer to Beautiful Thing, such a comparison is only just in terms of both films depicting an optimistic view of the coming out process. For that is where comparisons end, given this work varies in almost every other aspect and inparticular by setting such within a middle class environment, one far removed from the working class backdrop of the Jonathan Harvey classic.
That aside, both features pay specific attention to the coming out process. Only 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? A question that is all the more poignant, given both parents and friends already suspect the sexual identity that Sebastian neither wants them, nor himself at first, to acknowledge.
Performance wise and in a cast dominated by good looks, Hampus Björch as Sebastian and Nicolai Cleve Broch as Ulf, namely the supportive straight best friend that all gay teenagers should have, give touching portrayals of their respective characters in what is frankly a tender, if rose-tinted view of the coming out process. Yet this is not a criticism. Indeed anything but, given this film was made to directly address the alarming rate of suicides amongst the LGBT youth of Norway.
Not to be confused with Derek Jarman's homoerotic homage to the legend of the Christian martyr that was Sebastiane, this marks instead a sugarcoated view of the difficult and at times painful process of coming to terms with ones differing sexuality. True, few teens would have so remarkably non-judgmental friends and family as that shown here. But that said, in delivering the message that 'it's OK to be gay' as critical to its aim of suicide prevention, Norway was tackling head-on a subject that all too many countries at this time, were going out of their way to avoid addressing. Need more be said?
screened as part of the 11th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival 1997
starring: Hampus Björch, Nicolai Cleve Broch, Ewa Fröling, Helge Jordal, Rebecka Hemse, Lena Olander,
Emil Lindroth, Karin Hagås, Mira Mandoki, Stig Torstensson