Directed by Bavo Defurne. Cast: Jelle Florizoone, Mathias Vergels, Eva van der Gucht, Katelijne Damen, Nina Marie Kortekaas, Luke Wyns, Noor Ben Taouet, Thomas Coumans, Ben Van den Heuvel, Nathan Naenen, Mickey, Patricia Goemaere, Daniel Sikora, Victor Zaidi. 2012 99 minutes Not Rated (equivalent of R for sexual content and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, October 29, 2012.
Coming-of-age films are a prevalent subgenre, perhaps because of their universality. Every adult has gone through the process of growing up, and every teenager knows intimately what it's likeeven if they could stand to hold the insight of their older self to guide them through the awkwardness of adolescence and the joys and inevitable disappointments of first loves. Despite the title, "North Sea Texas" is not set in the panhandle of the United States, but in Belgium, based on the novel "Nooit gaat dit over" (translated in English as "This Is Everlasting") by André Sollie. The protagonist is Pim (Jelle Florizoone), a young teenage boy who seems very comfortable, if generally discreet, about his homosexuality. While his mother, Yvette (Eva van der Gucht) is out gallivanting around with men, Pim is welcomed into the home of single mother Marcella (Katelijne Damen) and her two children, 18-year-old Gino (Mathias Vergels) and 14-year-old Sabrina (Nina Marie Kortekaas). As Sabrina pines for Pim, she is clueless to the sexual relationship he has begun with her older brother. When Gino abruptly flies the nest with a new girlfriend, Pim gets his first taste of heartbreak. Or, the viewer assumes.
Writer-director Bavo Defurne and co-writer Yves Verbraeken have made a delicate, intermittently touching little drama with "North Sea Texas," but with one grave mistake: their lead character is too internalized for the audience to understand or grow attached to. What is Pim thinking? How does he feel, not only when Gino leaves, but when his mom, too, suddenly runs off with boarder Zoltan (Thomas Courmans)? Such things would really affect the average 15-year-old, but Pim says little and what he's thinking is more or less a mystery. It is too bad that the character is written so nondescriptly, because actor Jelle Florizoone is an eye-catching actor who is easy to like even if one can't quite make that all-important emotional connection with him. Third-act melodrama arises from what, until this point, has been fairly low-key, with one character dying from cancer and another two reconciling a bond that was never developed enough to begin with for their reuniting to have an impact. In the annals of gay cinema about growing up, "North Sea Texas" is, regrettably, an unoriginal and rather disposable take on a subject that's been done much better in the past. The hearts of all involved were in the right place, but the outcome leaves much to be desired.