Although some people roll their eyes at films about young people coming to terms with their sexuality, as they perceive them as being rather old hat, there’s a reason they’re popular. In a world where the LGBT-experience can seem ever more diverse and yet homogenised at the same time, the confusion of new feelings and first same-sex love is the closest we have to a universal gay experience.
The new film Boys is a touching, poignant look at this time of life, seen through the eyes of two teenage Dutch boys. Sieger is dealing with a strict father who’s constantly butting heads with his wayward older brother. Marc meanwhile is on the cooler, more popular end of the social spectrum.
Despite their differences they start to bond, initially as friends and members of an athletics club, but then while swimming they kiss. While both boys are into it within the water, once they’re out Sieger is keen to point out he isn’t gay. However they can’t deny their attraction to one another. They begin a difficult flirtation, with Sieger publicly showing interest in a local girl but privately being unable to deny he has feelings for Marc.
It sounds like a fairly standard coming of gay age premise, but the movie is extremely well handled, investing in the characters as people not just as a sexuality waiting to happen. While many films would paint Sieger as a coward for denying his true feelings, Boys has massive amounts of empathy with his situation, understanding his issues both of wanting to fit in with his peers, and also not to disappoint his father, who’s already lost his wife and is on the verge of losing his eldest son.
Marc isn’t the cardboard cut-out he could have been either, who may have different problems to Sieger but isn’t shown heading towards full gayhood with no issues whatsoever.
The film does a great balancing act of seeming like a remembrance of the past for older people who will probably reflect on their own difficulties in the early days of same sex attraction, while also being very relevant for young people today. Indeed it’s a great film for gay teens, as it recognises that things for young people have changed in the last few years, where the LGBT world may well be more visible than ever but there are still challenges to overcome when entering it.
It’s a genuinely sweet and moving film, with some great cinematography and moments that are genuinely poignant and surprisingly smart. Boys will make you go into full-on snuggle up of the sofa mode as you share these young men’s stories.
Overall Verdict: A tender look at first love that really cares about its young characters, with a touching and realistic look at coming to terms with your sexuality.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac