A beautiful and deceptively simple love story from director Bavo Defurne.
In the opening scenes of North Sea Texas, a young boy named Pim (Jelle Florizoone) dresses up in his mother’s old beauty queen costume, complete with sash, tiara and lipstick. When she walks in on him, he’s shocked. But she’s not. She simply accepts the situation for whatever it might be.
Pim lives in a hazy, lazy Belgian coastal town and grows up to be something of a pensive, gentle soul. He is quite unlike his mother, who clings to memories of a glamorous childhood of pageants and performing, resulting in a parenting style that’s based more on dream than reality. So the teenager is often left alone, seeking refuge with neighbours, namely the more maternal Marcella and her kids, Gino (Mathias Vergels) and Sabrina (Nina Marie Kortekaas).
With this surrogate family comes a new kind of love as Pim develops feelings for Gino, feelings that are quickly reciprocated. So begins a clandestine affair, full of overwhelming desire, obsession and the confusion that come with negotiating a teenage relationship, made all the more complex by the fact that Gino later decides to settle down with a girl.
If it didn’t feel so genuine, it would be easy to write North Sea Texas off as another gay romance wrought with tragedy. But when Gino reappears, we know why, even if he doesn't.
Director Bavo Defurne is known for his early short films that are stylised yet emotionally authentic snapshots of the personal, timeless qualities of becoming a self-assured adult. Visually, this is a stunning work, with attention to detail apparent in aspects ranging from the timelessness of the set design (the story takes place during the late '60s, early '70s) to the evolution of costumes colours and the lush rendering of urban and coastal textures.
As a debut feature, this is highly accomplished, both in terms of the control and style of production and its admirable storytelling poise. After a long auditioning process in which some actors pulled out due to the content of the film, Defurne cast two superb and brave leads. If, like Pim’s mother, we’re willing to have an open mind towards these two boys, what emerges from their deeply personal story is universal to the core.
Festival buzz and an acclaimed career so far for Defurne seem promising.
Beautiful looking and very well acted, it’s hard not to get drawn into deceptively simple plot.
Brilliant, affecting filmmaking. A beautiful love story.