Samuel Van Grinsven’s debut feature is a superb cautionary tale for young gay men, Sequin in a Blue Room is film at its best. This is an essential watch.
Sequin (Conor Leach) explores his burgeoning sexuality through an obsession with anonymous, no-strings sexual encounters. That is until he finds his way into The Blue Room – a strictly anonymous, limitless sex party – where a whole new, alluring world unfolds before him. There, Sequin connects with a captivating stranger, but they are separated suddenly. Utterly fixated on this man, Sequin sets off on an exhilarating and dangerous mission to track him down.
With a tight script, Sequin in a Blue Room has no time for filler, with every moment meaning something either at the time or further down the line, the importance of every look and action is clear. While Sequin’s actions outside of the home are the clear standouts to his development as a young adult and they are obviously the main themes of the film, There are small moments that help elevate the entire piece. Such moments as the gentle and supportive relationship that he has at home with his father (Jeremy Lindsay Taylor) is vitally important in the audience learning as much as they can about Sequin. His father wants to try and relate to his so, but has no idea how to and even makes awkward sex jokes about how it is a relief that Sequin cannot impregnate anyone when he is out. These interactions are so relateable to a young adult, be they gay or straight.
Yet, due to not having his father fully understand him, Sequin cannot divulge much of anything to him. Which means this left to his almost mentor in Virginia (Anthony Brandon Wong) who keeps the warmth within the film the further Sequin struggles with what is happening to him with the older man. Thankfully we dodge all of the stereotypical awkwardness of the coming out portion of Sequin’s story and discuss more of what happens next. He is a young man out, but other than Virginia (who comes much too late for him), he has no proper guidance on what to do, so he plunges in with both feet into his discovery, without having a lifeline there to pull him out when needed.
Van Grinsven and Jory Anast have written their lead to have that undeniable confidence in his sexuality, to the point that he has pure apathy afterwards; he has no genuine emotion to his encounters just yet until he realises in the Blue Room that attraction can lead to something more romantic. By this point, he has got himself stuck, and the unwavering confidence takes hit after hit as he has to figure out what he really wants, all the while trying to navigate the challenges of unwanted attention.
Remarkably this is writer/director Samuel Van Grinsven’s feature debut, which comes as a surprise when his bold confidence direction takes centre stage. Moments such as when Sequin first enters The Blue Room, we are given a 360 of their dialogue-free interaction as the camera keeps roving around them it transitions out by going out of focus in the shapes of Sequins, sequin top. We are also given plenty of dead space around our characters, when Sequin is being physical with the men, the open space shows how much he needs that closeness in the encounters, to have no time to think or breathe, to just experience the now and quickly. This is shown the opposite with the distance between him and his father, they fill the screen more due to their distance.
The Blue Room being designed with the drapes helps suffocate Sequin, he is seeing all of this fogged bliss going on and you can sense the lust he has, but the doubt in thinking that this is right for him lingers. It is too late once he enters and due to one bright (and beautifully shot encounter) sexual encounter, he has to return to it to find this mysterious man. The confidence within is what has Van Grinsven stand out as a director and cements that he will be a filmmaker to look out for down the line.
Equally as impressive is our lead Conor Leach. His performance over Sequin’s arch of being overly confident in his sexual awakening as he blocks his conquests from the app, to slowly being unsure of himself and portrays a vulnerability that is as realistic as you will see. He is a force here in his film debut as he navigates what is quite a difficult role for any actor. Showing the confidence of a screen veteran, he owns the screen as Sequin realises his carefree actions sometimes have consequences, but doesn’t know how to handle it. Leachs ability to delve into his character with ease, leaves us convinced that he is this character, we never doubt him, even when he doubts himself that his method of romantic entanglements may not be all it is cracked up to be. We see that he is missing something in his life, and we yearn for him to find it quickly before he goes down a road he may not be able to come from.
The use of music, be it diegetic or not, throughout the Sequin in a Blue Room adds to the show’s visual strengths. In the first interaction with Sequin and B, there is utter silence as they discuss what they will do during their hook up and subsequent actions. This continues throughout when Sequin feels nothing other than fulfilling his sexual urges. Yet when he enters the blue room, music is obviously there, but his emotions are raised as he begins to see how his life as a gay man can be more.
This is an intense and quite powerful feature that should immediately become essential viewing for all young people. While it obviously centred towards a gay teen, this is a coming of age film that also shows the dangers of cyber-dating and how easily one can be taken down a dark road with little control of where you end up. This human story has plenty from which anyone can take something from. We can relate to Sequin, whether we are gay, straight or whatever, Sequin is such a well-written character, and this is such a well-written film that you have to commend the work from Samuel Van Grinsven for what he has accomplished here with his film.
Sequin in a Blue Room is released via Peccadillo Pictures on UK/Ireland digital platforms from 9th April. The film is released in the US & Scandinavia from 17th May.
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