So there’s this boy who says he’s 18 but soon concedes he’s 16, although if he’s lied about his age once, who knows how young he really is? He lives with his single parent father who’s fine that he’s gay (at least there’s no chance in getting anyone pregnant) and lets him do pretty much what he wants. This may be where he learned his self-confident (some would say arrogant) stance.
We never learn his name, but he goes by Sequin on the App that he uses to organise sex with older men. After a brief encounter, he leaves and blocks them on the app. The latest of his rendezvous is with B, a 45-year old married man who’d like to see him again. No way, he says, that’s not the way this thing works.
Soon after, he’s invited to an anonymous sex party, where men walk through a darkened room draped in plastic sheets, while wearing nothing but beach towels. Who would be there but B? Sequin makes a bolt for it, which is where he bumps into someone much closer to his own age. They have sex, before the mysterious stranger departs, asking Sequin to meet him inside.
For whatever reason, they lose each other, and Sequin now finds himself in a Cinderalla situation. Desperate to find his brief fling, he resumes contact with B and eventually steals his phone to try to search his contacts. B reacts aggressively, Sequin experiences violence then heartbreak and there is a happy, if unduly conservative, ending.
Sequin in a Blue Room is a stylish film, but the plot is very slight. If it weren’t for the not-very-graphic sex scenes, this could very well be a Young Adult film. Indeed, it may be my problem but I found it very hard to either sympathise for the teenage hero, or to view his plight as being of any great interest. Things happened, then other things happened, but none of it really moved me.
It is quite possible that the scenes in Sequin’s school with a faceless English teacher were deliberately dull to show the alienation of his life – wasting his day being asked to list examples in popular culture of love or longing. Then again, one of these scenes allows one of the characters to shout out Brokeback Mountain as a big nudge nudge to the audience that there are other types of love. It all gives the impression of a film that is nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is.
The film has a great potential to look at the exciting dangers of anonymous sex acts, the recklessness of youth and the tensions between resisting the restrictions of monogamy and a desire to avoid loneliness. It may even intend to address these issues, but if it does, it finds it difficult to find anything interesting or novel to say.
There is a clunky subplot about Tommy, a fellow student in Sequin’s English class, who obviously has the hots for him. Tommy is clearly there as the gauche counterpart to Sequin’s self-assurance. While Sequin is organising sex hook-ups on his phone, Tommy is trying to splutter out an invitation to join a group who are going to the cinema. Not in a date sense of course, well maybe in a date sense.
Tommy is not really a well-rounded character, but as he’s a device, there’s no need for him to be. He is initially there to confirm that Sequin’s preferred lifestyle is much more exciting, later he is the reassuring conformity that Sequin’s life has been missing. There is little dialogue between the two boys, or any serious attempt to compare how they choose to live their lives. They are just there as archetypes, who don’t come across as being real people.
Then there is the figure of Sequin’s father. I am quite prepared to concede that I must have missed something blatantly obvious, as the father’s behaviour just doesn’t make sense. For most of the film, he indulges his son, even apologising for getting mad when Sequin stays out all night. But the moment that Sequin experiences danger, his father disowns him. As said, there may be a profound point here that I’m missing but this seems to be entirely out of character.
I don’t want to be too hard. For a start any film about a young gay man that doesn’t apologise for random consensual sex is a great step forward from what Hollywood usually has to offer, even if the cop out ending implies that maybe monogamy is the best option after all. One final question: do kids now rent out a film then watch it on a small laptop? What’s that all about? Maybe I’m just getting too old to understand.