2 min

Boys brings tender touch to coming-out story

Sensitivity meets sports in film screening at Vancouver Queer Film Festival

When they’re not training, Sieger (Gijs Blom) and Marc (Ko Zandvliet) explore their attraction for one another. Credit: VQFF

It takes a special talent to breathe new life into an old story, and Boys director Mischa Camp has the sensitivity to pull it off.

The story of a closeted teen boy struggling with his sexual identity has been exhausted in gay film, and yet, perhaps because so many of us can relate from personal experience, we continue to want to watch the struggle play out on screen.

And, of course, when the boy is cute, we can’t look away.

Enter Sieger (Gijs Blom), a 15-year-old jock preparing for his track team’s championship. He’s as sensitive as he is sporty but manages to maintain a cool surface. Only through the subtleties of Blom’s performance is his inner conflict revealed.

Track is Sieger’s release, where he runs from the shadow of his older brother Eddy (Jonas Smulders) — who, befitting of his last name, is so hot he practically smoulders — and their single father (Ton Kas), who is attempting to keep the family together after the death of their mother.

Sieger isn’t truly seen by his father or brother, who are too busy fighting each other to recognize his internal battle. Their distraction makes it easy for Sieger to conceal his truth, but it isn’t until a surprise moment of tenderness between him and his trackmate Marc (Ko Zandvliet) that he realizes he has a truth — let alone that it must be concealed.

The tension builds as Sieger, Marc and their buddies ride through the woodlands on bikes, then go for a swim in a lake. Eventually, Sieger and Marc find themselves alone in the water. The cinematography alone is moving as they cling to the same floating log. When their hands accidentally touch, the anticipation makes my heart stop beating.

Slowly, they overlap their arms and hold each other and then finally share a first kiss sweet enough to make my rigid heart rupture.

But what is left of my heart sinks when Sieger tells Marc, upon emerging from the water, “I’m not gay.”

“Of course you’re not,” Marc replies knowingly.

Predictably, Sieger runs from the boy into the arms of a girl, but the other clichés — like being caught in the gay act by an unrelenting dad — are wisely avoided. Instead, Sieger’s unravelling happens internally. What this film may lack in drama it more than makes up for in poignancy.