North Sea Texas (2011)
★★ / ★★★★
After young Pim (Ben Van den Heuvel) is caught by his mother, Yvette (Eva van der Gucht), putting on her attire, tiara and all, back when she was crowned beauty queen, Pim runs away out of embarrassment. Marcella (Katelijne Damen), a neighbor, finds Pim and introduces him to her children, Gino and Sabrina.
Over the years, Pim (Jelle Florizoone) and Gino (Mathias Vergels) have become good friends and shared a mutual attraction. Sabrina, smitten over Pim, remains aware of the things her crush and brother do when they are alone. Everything starts to change, however, when Pim is informed by Marcella that Gino has found a girlfriend.
Based on a novel by André Sollie, “Noordzee, Texas,” directed by Bavo Defurne, can be misconstrued as a love story between two people who happen to be of the same gender. Since the two central characters spend a lot of time apart while not being in or on a verge of a relationship, the picture offers something different by turning its focus on the lack of real meaning between a mother and a son’s relationship somewhere in the middle. The story then becomes about an adolescent who does not and has never felt like he belonged.
The construction of the plot is not predictable but the elements within each strand are familiar. Take the arc of the friendship between Pim and Gino as an example. The scenes that go hand-in-hand with their innocence are bathed in warm colors like orange, yellow, and red. There is a certain glow when they look at each other with curiosity and anticipation. The opposite is done with the scenes that communicate their detachment. Colder colors run abound and the warm colors, like clothing, appear drained of their vibrancy. A similar technique is utilized with Sabrina’s attitude toward Pim, especially in terms of the color of the liquid she offers him each time he comes over.
Despite the thought and artistry put into its images, the film is disappointing from an emotional perspective. A lot of the anger, frustration, and regret are muffled all the way through. As a result, there is neither catharsis for its main character nor the audiences. Events that tug at the heart strings are ameliorated by moments that are less sad. If the intention is to get us into the feelings and mindset of the main character–possible because the execution’s flow reflects that of a daydream, much like Pim’s mind often being somewhere else–the effect is underwhelming because Pim is already so reticent. We ask ourselves what is going on in his mind, but when he speaks there is a lack of dimension or passion in the way he expresses himself. So there are times when I found him boring.
I almost wished that the picture had been strictly about the irresponsible mother and the son who has never felt loved by her. Each time they interact, my mind goes back to that first scene where young Pim is seen by his mother trying on her personal items. There are many questions worth asking. Does Pim play dress-up because he is gay? Is it out of childhood curiosity? Does he like the physical feeling of those items on his body or do thoughts of being wanted or being considered a winner appeal more to him?
“North Sea Texas,” written by Bavo Defurne and Yves Verbraeken, does not seem willing to engage in our questions. It is shot beautifully–but just like people who are physically beautiful but have only a hollowness inside, we are repelled the longer and harder we try to get to know it.