Closet Monster

[Palm Springs International Film Festival 2016 report]
These two coming out/coming-of-age films both feature gay teenagers grappling with their sexuality amidst the disintegration of their parents’ marriage, but they couldn’t be more different in tone. Canadian Stephen Dunn’s CLOSET MONSTER feels lighter in many respects, despite the violent episode that scars young Oscar’s (Connor Jessup) nascent gay psyche from boyhood; this film plays with its cards on the table, using magical realism as its trump, most notably the pet hamster that talks to Oscar and has all the best lines (voiced by Isabella Rossellini, essentially reprising her Green Porno antics, for those familiar with those wickedly amusing nature shorts). Easily accessible–perhaps too easily–CLOSET MONSTER offers a youth’s journey that’s straightforward, even if embellished with some fanciful bits.

DEPARTURE’s denser, deeper texture can be frustrating at first, as so much revolves around the interior life of its two English protagonists, teen would-be writer Elliot (Alex Lawther) and his emotionally fragile mom, Beatrice (Juliet Stevenson), closing a vacation home in the French countryside. Just as one starts to wonder how long Elliot can aimlessly swoon about (as proto-gay adolescents, especially of the would-be writer variety, are prone to do), local rough boy Clément (Phénix Brossard) enters to shake things up. Under writer-director Andrew Steggall’s auspices, a rich authenticity of character, place (a gorgeous autumn woodland setting), and emotion gradually asserts itself, evoked with great skill by Lawther and especially Stevenson, whose face is a marvel.

Of the two films, DEPARTURE is the more polished, but both of these deeply personal works will remind you of those awful, wonderful days when a youth discovers love. –YSM

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We love to sit in the dark with a big tub of popcorn amid a roomful of strangers. Reports on what we witness there come in two varieties: Bullet Reviews quickly and concisely convey our take on a film, always in spoiler-free fashion; Trailer Trash reveals Your Sacrificial Moviegoer's best prediction on whether an upcoming movie is worth seeing, based solely on the trailer (the short "previews" before the feature presentation).

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