A TV movie from the Netherlands, "Boys" aka "Jongens" is a quiet little film about a fifteen-year-old named Sieger (Gijs Blom), who falls for a running mate named Marc (Ko Zandvliet). Reminiscent of the Belgium film "North Sea Texas," "Boys" says the most when it's not saying anything at all.
Sieger is on his school's athletics team training for a National Relay Championship. His passive, subdued father (Ton Kas) struggles to get over the loss of his wife in a motorbike accident and raise two children. His older brother Eddy is the troublemaker of the family, clearly acting out in response to losing his mother. He fights to keep a job, spends his nights joyriding with a group of friends, and continually throws his put-upon father a bit of attitude. Sieger, on the other hand, is a model child and student. Which is why he finds it so hard to come to terms with burgeoning feelings he has for his teammate Marc.
At first he isn't quite sure what to make of Marc's advances, but his curiosity gets the best of him and the two spend an afternoon together in a local watering hole. These scenes are sweet and discreet, and when they kiss for the first time it's as innocent as first kisses can be. But Sieger's fear of what he has begun to feel makes him back away from Marc, causing a rift between the pair.
To be fair "Boys" covers well-worn territory, but It's how director Mischa Kamp thoughtfully approaches the story that makes it feel fresh and mature. There are no homophobic parents or accidental reveals. Just when you think you know what the writers (Jaap-Peter Enderle, Chris Westendorp) have in store for Sieger, you realize that, "No, this isn't that type of film." And thank goodness for that. This is an internal film showing a young boy's romantic awakening.
The lead actors are terrific and have a naturalism that makes it seem almost like a documentary. It also feels timeless in the way that rarely do cellphones or computers interfere on the story. It's meditative and lovely. For teens struggling with their identity, this is a hopeful look at the love that will come into their lives when they are open to it.
This article is part of our "Cinema Diverse! Palm Springs 2014" series. Want to read more?
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