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SIFF: North Sea, Texas - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
SIFF: North Sea, Texas
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B

It takes a little while to figure out what's going on in North Sea, Texas. Opening scenes introduce us to a young Pim (Ben Van den Heuvel), rummaging through his mother's bedroom desk drawer. He puts on her sash and tiara and, for some reason, wears them with nothing else while standing at the window. We all know his mother is going to walk in on him. But when she does, she is nothing more than amused, and tells him she's not mad.

We follow the young Pim for a fairly long while. We meet several people around him, including a nearby neighbor lady and her two children, a girl around his age and a boy a few years older. Then it jumps forward, and Pim (now Jelle Florizoone, giving a consistently steely performance) is about to turn 15. At this point, director Bavo Defurne wastes no time in establishing a sexual relationship between Pim and the older neighbor boy, Gino (Mathias Vergels).

The first encounter is an odd one. They're in a garage. Gino says, "It's hot in here!" and takes off his shirt -- nothing new there. But then, out of nowhere, he starts jerking off. Pim seems to take his cue and does the same. Pim takes the rag Gino uses as a keepsake. This seems a bit nasty than romantic, but that rag turns up several times again, as though a talisman to their repressed love for each other.

That said, this is a pretty simple love story that takes its time in the telling, but with some rather lovely cinematography. Being on the coast of Belgium, there are some pretty picturesque locations. It doesn't hurt that both the boys are beautiful. Actually most of the characters are not so bad on the eyes. The gypsy subletter (Thomas Coumans) Pim's mother takes in understandably catches Pim's eye, for several reasons: the man once sublet the room in the past, when Pim was a little boy, and he loved him then. Gino's little sister, Sabrina (Nina Marie Kortekaas), has a youthful luminescence that any straight teenager should find irresistible -- but Pim is clearly not straight. Even Pim's mom (Eva van der Gucht), in spite of more than once being called a "cow," is rather pretty. One might be tempted to wonder if any Belgian is ugly -- but then walks in the man Pim's mother is dating, also Gino's boss, Etienne (Luk Wyns). This guy isn't going to be starring in a lot of people's fantasies.

Pim falls hard for Gino, completely unnoticed by his neglectful mother, who is apparently a traveling accordion player, often going out all night -- or for days at a time -- with Etienne. Adults around these kids generally aren't paying attention, except perhaps for Gino's mom. This really isn't a coming-out story. Pim comes close to telling Sabrina the truth about himself but can't do it, but it's always quite clear that he's as gay as it gets. Gino doesn't seem as sure. A couple of years go by, and he makes a choice to leave Pim behind in pursuit of a French girl.

There's a lot of time spent here with people bottling up their feelings. Pim is so guarded that he often comes off as a little rude; neighbors ask friendly questions and he just doesn't answer. Pim and Gino and Sabrina all are constantly afraid of saying out loud what they really feel. It effectively thickens the tension. I still could have stood for the pacing to have been picked up a bit. This movie never stops being a tad slow-going, which means that it has a compelling story that could have been absorbing but isn't quite.

That's about all I can say against it, though. The actors are solid pretty much all around. Florizoone and Vergels as Pim and Gino in particular are by turns sweet and heartbreaking. And Bavo Defurne skillfully illustrates this sexual awakening they don't quite know what to do with. Well, they certainly know what to do at first, intuitively, in terms of physicality. But then they grow a little older, and Gino in particular confuses love for another guy with a childhood phase.

But we see all this through Pim's eyes. It's his story. It's not an earth-shattering one, but it's touching.

Jelle Florizoone and Mathias Vergels, young lovers in NORTH SEA, TEXAS.

Overall: B+
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