A Tender Teenage Tale

​Review of Boys at SIFF by Vida Behar

Boys, a film from the Netherlands directed by Mischa Kamp is unbearably tender. It’s about Sieger, a 15-year-old who is recently motherless during a stifling summer in which he grapples with his burgeoning attraction toward Marc, his new track-and-field teammate.

The setting of the film is beautiful, especially the prominently featured pond area. There's an old rickety bridge, dark murky waters, lily pads scattered across the mirror-like surface of the water, and a leafy canopy — all of these contributing greatly to the intensity of the scenes. The beauty of nature is actually an important theme of Boys, because it mirrors the beauty between Sieger and Marc.

Another strong point of this film is the interesting camera angles. The camera contributes to a first-person narrative by focusing in on Sieger’s face, hands, eyes, and mouth, and by following his gaze. This idea of having a first-person narrative through cinematographic choices is especially apparent in one scene in which Sieger is doing doing pull-ups in the foreground and in focus, but in the background the actual action is happening with his dad and his brother even though they’re out of focus.

The cinematography in Boys is just so creative and artful, like one shot from under a trampoline of Marc and Sieger’s profiles or an aerial view of them in the water, one on either side of a floating log. What was particularly striking about that shot was a contrast of their pale arms with their dark hair and the deep dark blue of the water. There are actually several aerial shots in Boys and they are all good.

But one issue with this movie is the score. It’s fine in places, yet more often than not it feels artificial and over-dramatic, like it’s trying too hard to force a feeling onto the viewer. This cheesiness, regrettably, is also apparent in the unwarranted and excessive use of slow-motion in the final scene. After like 5 minutes of the slow motion, it just gets tedious.

And the acting too! The acting for Sieger’s brother (Jonas Smulders) was kind of forced in the beginning, but toward the end Smulders' performance felt more believable. As for Sieger and Marc though, played by Gijs Blom and Ko Zvandliet respectively, the astonishing acting is much of what makes Boys such an engaging and tender movie.

Ultimately, despite a little bit of being over-dramatic, Boys is both visually gorgeous and incredibly emotional, and by far worth watching.

Seattle International Film Festival
Screenings June 2 and 3

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