Dutch director Mischa Kamp’s 2014 feature film, Boys (Jongens) is a quiet reflection on two teenage boys first loves. The film was originally created for television and this doesn’t show at all, it’s far from the content that i remember seeing as a young teenager watching after school specials. In many ways the “made-for-TV” feeling of the movie can be felt in the lack any sort of explicit or sexual scenes. This appears to me as an interesting concept in comparison to the state of gay youth cinema in the United States as I can’t seem to put my finger on a film that portrays realistic gay youth that is marketed to children as young as twelve and as old as ninety, as this film is in its home country. The film weaves the tale of Sieger, a quiet teenage and athletic boy who truly falls in love for the first time. He develops a close friendship with a fellow track mate Marc that leads the two the boys down a path that will change their young lives, and those around them, forever.
The two lead actors Gijs Blom and Ko Zandvliet push a solid sense of realness into a realm that i haven’t seen in recent gay coming-of-age films (can we all just agree that this is now an official category in gay cinema?). Unlike most films of this genre, Sieger’s first love doesn’t come with a heavy dose of melancholy pondering or negative sensibilities. It’s more a refreshing and beautifully imaged film that took me back to several “first” experiences in my young life. Cinematographer Melle van Essen should be mentioned for the truly beautiful and seemly effortless camera movement. With the camera acting as a sort of overhead adult with the ability to experience a retrospectively simpler time in one’s live. What especially struck me is a particularly voyeuristic scene in which the two boys first cross the line from friendship in dark and murky water, this image happens to be used as the poster for the film as well.
It’s interesting to note that a film so centered on male gay love was directed by a woman, as women are almost entirely absent from the film, with a slight exception. At first thought I was surprised, how is it that a woman could visually imagine the budding relationship of two young boys, she surely has never experienced what life if like inside a young gay man’s body, through his eyes. With deeper thought I reached the conclusion that the story itself was not focalized solely on the two main character’s sexual orientation, the themes are rooted deeper in the overall emotions
that most people can relate to in such a utterly confusing and anomalous time in their young lives.
The film’s overarching theme is clearly the importance of accepting who you are sexually. This idea can be applied to just about anyone on the level of finding one’s own self acceptance and more importantly a self-definition.
You can currently stream the film on Netflix in Dutch with English subtitles. Boys is available from Wolfe Video on DVD or streaming.
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