out of Five
Running time: 94
Beautifully directed, emotionally engaging coming-of-age drama with a sharp script, a strong sense of time and place and terrific performances from its entire cast.
What's it all about?
Directed by Bavo Defume, North Sea Texas (Noordzee, Texas, original title fans) is based on a novel by Andre Sollie and stars Jelle Florizoone as Pim, an artistic 15 year old boy who lives in a 1960s Belgian coastal town with his accordion-playing, bar-cruising mother Yvette (Eva Van der Gucht). As a younger boy (played by Ben Van den Heuvel), Pim frequently dressed in his mother's clothes and make-up, but as his 15th birthday approaches, Pim finds his attentions drawn elsewhere and develops an intense crush on his best friend Gino (Mathias Vergel), drawing him in private and collecting a box of fetishised objects that he associates with their relationship.
When the pair begin exploring their sexuality together, Pim is overjoyed as their motorbike rides and nights spent camping in the dunes take on a whole new meaning. Meanwhile, Gino's little sister Sabrina (Nina Marie Kortekaas) is nursing her own crush on Pim and there's heartbreak in store when Gino starts spending time with a French girl he meets in Dunkirk.
Jelle Florizoone is superb as Pim, conveying a powerful sense of longing and obsession with very little dialogue. Vergel is equally good as Gino while Kortekaas is heartbreaking as Sabrina and there's strong support from Van der Gucht, Luk Wynns (as Yvette's slobby suitor Etienne) and Thomas Coumans as her returning carnival-working lodger Zoltan, to whom Pim transfers his affections after things go wrong with Gino.
The film is beautifully shot courtesy of cinematographer Anton Mertens, who bathes everything in a nostalgia-tinged, almost dream-like yellow light. Defume and Mertens also evoke a strong sense of time and place, particularly in their use of the various town and beach locations.
Defume's focus on Pim's fetishisation of objects is effective, because it crystallises the intensity and the importance of tiny moments; this also leads to some great scenes, such as Pim swapping over their identical knives while Gino sleeps, so that they will secretly have something belonging to each other. Defume also has a strong eye for painfully familiar adolescent experiences and the film is packed full of recognisable scenes, such as when Pim is pretending to listen to Sabrina but jumps up as soon as he hears the sound of Gino's motorcycle outside.
It's also worth noting that the film commendably avoids some of the clichés associated with gay coming-of-age drama, though to say any more would be to rob the film of its emotional impact.
Impressively directed, beautifully shot and emotionally engaging, North Sea Texas is a sensitive, superbly written coming-of-age drama that's well worth seeking out. Recommended.
North Sea Texas (Noordzee, Texas) (15)