Arts & Entertainment
1 min

Quiet longing in North Sea, Texas

The beautiful, subtle torment of teenaged love

Pim (left, played by Jelle Florizoone) has quietly longed for Gino (Mathias Vergels) since childhood in Bavo Defurne's quirky, powerful film North Sea, Texas.

I’m still thinking about Pim. He is a cute and quiet Belgian boy. He likes to wear his mother’s tiara. He’s a dreamer. He draws. He observes.

Through the subtleties of his performance, actor Jelle Florizoone shows us that Pim doesn’t have to speak or be overtly expressive to be understood. His sadness and angst are instantly familiar. Pim knows more than everyone around him thinks he does. He feels more than everyone around him thinks he does. And that’s why he comes across as demure and shy. Soft. When really, he’s an old, tormented soul caught in the grip of adolescence.

Forizoone’s performance touched me. He possesses a screaming silence, and I could feel all the emotion he swallows like a heart-shaped stone.

From childhood, Pim and Gino, played by Mathias Vergels, have had a bond. By the time they’re teenagers, they’re jerking off together, with Pim keeping, and cherishing, Gino’s spoiled rag. When they have an outdoor sleepover in a tent, their carnal desire is overwhelming, and first-time love has never been more pure.

Director Bavo Defurne is immaculate. Each scene is aesthetically simple and divine, and the production quality complements the strength of the script — which, more than once, had me in tears. It’s quirky and dramatic and so fucking compelling it will make you fall in love and then fall apart, because isn’t that how it always goes?

But the layers of melancholy are only one component of the film. There’s also beauty. And I don’t just mean the Belgian shore, where Pim finds sanctuary and where Gino, after rejecting Pim for a French girlfriend, asks, “You didn’t think I loved you, did you?” I also mean the way the film captures the beauty of being different and the struggle to realize that different is really just another word for special.

The supporting cast, and their eccentric characters, bring the story together. Pim’s mother, played by Eva van der Gucht, is a free-spirited accordion player who loves her “crazy boy” yet frequently abandons him for parties and gigs in nearby towns. While she’s MIA, Pim finds solace at Gino’s home — where Gino’s mother and sister welcome him with motherly, and not-so-sisterly, love and where he discovers the true meaning of family.

The subtitles aren’t so much read as absorbed. North Sea, Texas has a slow start but will quickly speed up your heart.