Anybody with a critical mind will find nothing new in Bavo Defurne’s directorial début. North Sea Texas, for all its lushness, its beautifully burnished cinematography and often dreamlike narrative sensibility, retreads material commonly found in many coming-of-age movies. It’s no surprise it’s Defurne’s first full-length feature (having first established himself as a short-film maestro in queer cinema), Texas unfolds in languorous fashion with a more-than-familiar storyline, brimming with style but with little scope, perhaps best watched on a chilled-out Friday night on your sofa with lights down and wine glass on hand. It’s not uninteresting, we’ve just seen far too many films like this, especially if you’re well acquainted in the LGBT genre – where a pale, reserved teen, who happens to worsen the gay stereotype by dressing up surreptitiously as a little beauty queen, finds himself intoxicated by a motorbiking boy next door whilst escaping the clutches of his boozy, insufferable village-whore mother.
It’s anything but bold, but compared to most films of its clout, North Sea Texas has one thing – sophistication. Defurne has captured a sweet, miniature portrait of young love in a language he knows. Sure, it’s no compelling tale, but it’s a tale told with sincerity without reserving judgements for its characters. And there’s also an understated, nuanced performance by its central lead, the young actor Jelle Floorizoone, who single-handedly carries the entire film with some quiet, melancholic gravitas. Floorizone’s Pim drifts longingly around for a companion, finding family in the next door neighbour and bears first-hand encounter to first heartbreak and aching amour against a rather poetic backdrop – the sun-kissed, windswept Belgian coast.
Pretty but far from compelling, North Sea Texas breaks no new grounds in queer cinema. Instead, it’s an unassuming, quietly told tale of a windswept adolescent romance and the pangs of first love, with an intoxicating cinematography that’s worth enough the admission.