Peccadillo Pictures have unearthed yet another tantalising twist on young love in the form of North Sea Texas (2011), Belgian director Bavo Defurne’s coming-of-age drama starring Ben Van den Heuvel, Eva Van der Gucht and and Nathan Naenen. A languid ode to teenage infatuation, the film ambles gently along speaking volumes with the minimum verbosity.
Pim (Van den Heuvel) lives on the Belgian coast with his scatty but well-meaning mother Yvette (Van der Gucht), a star of the local accordion playing circuit. To escape his humdrum existence, he immerses himself in a fantasy world of princesses and beauty queens whilst idolising Gino (Naenen) an older boy who lives next door. Things come to a head after Yvette disappears with an old flame called Zoltan (Thomas Coumans), and Pim finds solace, and eventually the love he craves, with Gino and his family.
Though the story of Pim, a loner who has to deal not only with an unorthodox upbringing but also his burgeoning homosexuality, is by its nature bleak, Defurne deals with the issues at-hand with sensitivity. Unlike so many cinematic takes on the subject of gay orientation, North Sea Texas film doesn’t push its sexuality in your face. The occasions when Pim and Gino succumb to their dormant passions are dealt with in a measured and compassionate way, making the viewer empathise with the boys and the difficulties which they face.
Magically shot, director of photography Anton Mertens imbues a bleak coastal landscape with rustling earthiness seen as the wind passes through a sea of reeds beside the beach. He contrasts this starkly with the cartoon-like brightness of a new day when Pim throws open his bedroom window one morning to embrace the world outside. On the downside the film portrays Pim’s ‘father figures’ (in the form of his mother’s boyfriends) as stereotypically butch, with a simmering though unspoken homophobic undercurrent. Similarly niggling, little is made of the ‘Texas’ bar where Yvette hangs out and which lends the film its name.
These are the only quibbles to come from what is otherwise a pleasant and enjoyable exercise in adolescent whimsy. Defurne has established a fine reputation as a cult director, and one suspects that his North Sea Texas follow-up may well garner even more favour from mainstream audiences.