Rare is the gay movie that doesn’t involve some sort of sex. That’s part of the restrained beauty and grace that makes Jongens – Boys, when translated from the Dutch – such a great film.
Going in, I wasn’t familiar at all with cast or crew as is usually the case with foreign films. But it worked just as well. The Dutch cast were fantastic, with Gijs Blom in particular playing a finely-tuned role as Sieger, a nascent homosexual who’s coming to terms with it while handling a sports competition and a little bit of family drama. So far, so usual. These coming out stories are almost always centred on teenage sports and I’ve always wondered why there is such an obsession with this type of boy/men? Is it an attempt to cast the light away from the campy young gays who do theatre and music and invert the stereotype by placing the camera on a character from a sports team?
Anyway, Jongens thankfully does away with a lot of staid and painful stereotypes, instead embracing the sensitivity of confusion and the tumults of adolescence. Sieger ends up meeting a senior on his track team, Marc – played by Ko Zandvliet – and they start hanging out and enjoying that great simple youthful connection. And then they kiss, and it is breathtakingly shot. In an aerial view over a log, the two surface out of the water of a small lake they were swimming in. It’s soft, hesitant, afraid and ultimately quite beautiful.
We get standard coming out drama (shoving, denial, etc.), but what struck me most was the simple and moving power of a kiss. Even though characters like Marc are criminally underwritten, the narrative works because it’s being told through the central eyes of Sieger. This means that we’re attempting to experience the ups and downs as the character would, and Gijs Blom is fantastic for being 17 at the time the film was released. The way he tempers Sieger’s emotions gives the film a real believability and relatability.
I was personally reminded of the particular joys of first love. Of the simple desire to connect, understand, be understood, to have a person wholly in spirit and in body. When such expectations are still fair to you because they’re untainted by experience. Jongens does a beautiful thing by sensitively elevating the coming out experience of a young man on the cusp of his adulthood, and it could perhaps remind us of the easy joys of young love.
Featured image from IMDB.com