›› Teens Like Phil
a short film by Dominic Haxton and David Rosler.
2012 | 20 mins | US.
principal players: Adam Donovan / Phil, Jake Robbins / Adam, Virginia Bartholomew / Teacher, Ken Burmeister / Uncle Mike, Margie Ferris / Phil's Mom, Bart Shatto / Phil's Dad, Kelly Walters / Adam's Mom, Collin Leydon / Adam's Brother, Monty Geer / Adam's Friend and Domenica Galati as the School Principal.
Official Synopsis: "Phil, a shy teenager struggles with his sexuality. He finds himself bullied by his ex-best friend and love interest Adam, who wants to be "in" with the cool kids. Seeing no other option, Phil decides to take a drastic course of action."
Director’s Statement: "The film explores the complicated and painful circumstances surrounding this relationship in an effort to better understand the roots of the bullying epidemic. Phil’s story is ultimately a tale of survival and transcendence from this cycle of abuse. My hope is that the film will provide insight and support to the countless teens everywhere who have suffered at the hands of their peers."
Ominous from the onset, this emotive short film was inspired by the alarming increase in real-life tragedies involving high school bullying and suicide. And it's well-played at that too, as we come to witness the turbulent life of Phil; a likeable lad struggling to come to terms with his homosexuality, ever being taunted by his former friend Adam, only for the boy to have issues of his own. As too does Phil's Uncle Mike; namely a subplot that revolves around a man ostracized by his friends and family, left with seemingly little to live for, apart from his memories of a gay relationship that once was.
When love turns to hate, in Teens Like Phil.
In short, this is a work about self acceptance, one that finds co-writers / directors Dominic Haxton and David Rosler of We are Animals fame with a lot to say on the subject. Only and whilst the "it's okay to be gay" message cannot be said loud enough, here it's played a shade on the preachy side, courtesy of a soundtrack that includes many an excerpt from the recorded lectures on human sexuality by noted academic Alan Watts. Thankfully production values are high, with leads Adam Donovan as Phil and Jake Robbins as Adam delivering wonderfully natural performances throughout, even if the narrative constantly cross-cuts their story, dramatically juxtaposing moments of pure joy when Phil and Adam were best friends, to the antithesis of their relationship, when love would turn to hate. And then some.
Violent in part, occasionally surreal, yet equally proud to show the outstretched hand of compassion, above all this is a story that tells, if not shouts of the tragic consequences of repressing your sexuality. Yet it's also a work that has gone out of its way to illustrate the fact that there's light at the end of the self acceptance tunnel and whilst the fragmented nature of its delivery somewhat diminishes the emotional impact, its heartfelt message is as relevant now, as it was when told in the Peggy Rajski classic Trevor. If perhaps, even more so.
Gay Visibility - overt.
Nudity - from the waist up.
Overall - file under ... 3+ stars.