Home Video Hovel- North Sea Texas, by Aaron Pinkston
Sexual awakening is an important part of everyone’s life. And so, we get quite a few films on the subject. North Sea Texas is a new entry into the genre, though its belonging to the rapidly growing gay cinema sets it apart by the slightest of degrees. Whenever you have such a well-worn story, inserting a different perspective is vital, and North Sea Texas benefits from this. Unfortunately, though the results are pretty and well toned, the film has little emotional impact.
Pim is a teenager living with his mother in a small coastal town in Belgium. In the film’s opening scene we see a younger version of Pim through his burgeoning sexuality, showing a strange curiosity in his mother’s makeup and clothes. Typically, this kind of scene in this kind of film would be played for broad laughs, but it is actually quite touching. After this opening sequence we jump to Pim on the verge of his fifteenth birthday and there is an apparent dramatic shift through the rest of the film. As Pim is growing older, and though he is still curious about his sexual impulses, the world is darker, less forgiving. The magical loveliness set up at the onset is lost into sadness, anger (the quiet kind) and angst. Because of this, the film stalls.
The majority of the film deals with the relationship between Pim and Gino, an older boy who lives next door. Pim pines over Gino, completely obsessed, often thinking back at their past encounters and constantly sketching the boy’s face. The admiration isn’t unrequited, though, as their relationship does on several occasions become physical, despite Gino’s interest in not outing himself as gay. Complicating matters is Gino’s younger sister, who has a crush on Pim and doesn’t understand why he doesn’t give her more attention. This subplot is a good example of the film not expanding on previous cinematic territory — it never really has a place in the film’s emotional aims of the two main characters, simply adding some misdirection.
At times North Sea Texas feels like the work of Wes Anderson with its eye for production design and themes of youth and wonder, though without the flair of whimsy. But really, the film’s closes companion is Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, which is a clear inspiration. Filling in for Antoine Doinel’s rebellious pre-teen is Pim, a quiet, but angsty, fifteen-year-old discovering himself through his sexuality. Many of the particulars are similar between the two films, from promiscuous mothers driving their sons away to moments of catharsis happening on beaches. First-time director Bavo Defurne takes many visual cues from the landmark coming-of-age tale giving the film a look and feel that can almost only be described as “European.” This is not an insult, as the look of the film is its strongest point, beautifully shot and designed, with an interesting color pallette.
I’m not sure if there just wasn’t enough new or whether what is there doesn’t hit hard enough, but I was never grabbed by this movie, despite the good things the film has going for it. After a pretty wonderful opening sequence the film stalls, stagnant in its quiet emotions. It’s an undoubtedly quiet film, and that usually works well for me, but North Sea Texas just didn’t hit. I don’t doubt it finds a nice indie following, however, as it is well made, has good intentions and serves a growing genre.