At once both heartwarming and bittersweet, Bavo Defurne’s debut feature Noordzee Texas has firmly wedged itself into my consciousness, and it won’t let go. Telling the story of gay teenager Pim in late 1960’s Belgium, the film charts his relationship with his mother (Eva van der Gucht), who longs for the glory days having a child deprived her of, and of his burgeoning relationship with older neighbourhood boy Gino (Mathias Vergels). Defurne and producer Yves Verbraeken tell their story with a pared back, almost sparse script, leaving the artistic cinematography and actors to deliver the emotion, and it’s Jelle Florizoone’s performance of Pim which makes this film an absolute must see.

Introverted Pim emerges into the adult world when bike-mad Gino acts on his growing attraction for him, and he finds himself equally attracted to him in turn, the two then embarking on an intense, happy but secret sexual relationship. It’s Gino however who later considers it time to ‘move on’ to a relationship with a woman, and it’s the conflict this generates between the two, but also the issues it raises for Pim’s own sexuality which gives the film its necessary and brilliantly illustrated subtle edge. Where Gino finds easier social acceptance, Pim finds strength in his own identity, and Florizoone (in his debut role) imbues Pim with incredible (and largely silent) dignity, be it in his rejection of Gino’s sister Sabrina (Nina Marie Kortekaas) or in his edgy confrontation with Gino on the beach.

It’s a film with huge charm, but also a wry humour. Pim makes a play for the family’s returning lodger Zoltan (Thomas Coumans), but is darkly outmanoeuvered by the ever-scheming Yvette, who ever more relates to her son more as a rival than an equal. Director Defurne publicly stated though that he refused to go down the stereotpyical path of portraying the circumstances of Pim’s first love as dark and doomed, but his story is by no means a fairy tale either – the film has more than its fair share of tragedy and loss. Instead there’s a sense of gritty optimism that permeates this beautiful coming of age tale, and Defurne and Verbraeken are genuinely blessed with a superb cast (and Floorizone in particular) to bring it to life. North Sea Texas has lessons (and memories) for us all.



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