Based on Brent Hartinger’s popular book, Geography Club follows high school student Russell (Cameron Deane Stewart), who’s just figuring out his sexuality but not ready to tell the world about it yet. He’s also involved in a fledgling relationship with star quarterback Kevin (Justin Deeley), although the sportsman is absolutely determined nobody will find out about it.
Russell ends up getting involved with the new Geography Club, which has nothing to do with geography. It’s actually just a boring name to stop anyone bothering them, as it’s really a secret club for LGBT teens to talk about their problems and connect. However their secrets may be difficult to keep and they may have to face whether they want to come out in the open.
In the last couple of years gay-themed movies concerning teen characters have tended to be increasingly dark and often pretty bleak. It’s easy to understand why, as with increasing coverage of young gay people being driven towards suicide, it’s important for film to explore this (the stats for the number of gay teens compared to straight teens who attempt suicide is indeed scary). However while there are campaigns saying ‘It Gets Better’, in gay cinema it often seems things just get worse and worse for gay teens. Indeed I’ve sometimes thought that if I was coming to terms with my sexuality and watching a lot of the films about coming out, being gay would seem pretty dreadful and merely a route to suffering.
It’s great then to have a gay-themed teen film that is sweet and funny, which actually tries to chart a route through the difficulties of being a young LGBT person, rather than suggesting that at some point you’re going to at least have to try to kill yourself. While it may not go deep into some of the darker sides of the problems gay teens face, it’s probably closer to how it is for the majority of young people – they will face those who will target them because of their sexuality and have a fear of revealing their sexuality to other people, and they probably will have some difficult times – but they’ll find a way through.
Geography Club talks about the importance of community and finding others who are going through the same experiences as you, as well as learning to be true to yourself and not staying around people who are ashamed of who they are. Admittedly there is occasionally a bit of an old-fashioned feel about the film, particularly with Russell’s chubby best-friend Gunnar (Andrew Caldwell), who sometime feels like he fell out of an 80s teen flick.
That said, it’s still charming and often witty. It’s especially well worth watching if you’re young, gay and looking for inspiration that it really does get better.
Overall Verdict: After a slew of pretty dark gay teen films that may reflect some of the unhappiest experiences for some LGBT youths, it’s great to have a film that’s fun and sweet, and which suggests there’s always a way through and that while it might sometimes seem lonely, you will indeed find people who think the way you do and accept you for who you are.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac