Movie Reviews

Sequin in a Blue Room movie review (2021)

Our hero is Sequin (Conor Leach), a 16-year-old who is comfortably out and embracing and exploring his sexuality in a manner that might make most sensible people cringe. He spends most of his time on an app that allows him to arrange anonymous sexual encounters with strangers. (His name comes from the sequined shirt that he wears to all such meetings.) Preferring the no-strings approach, Sequin’s modus operandi is to have that single encounter and move on—as soon as he leaves afterwards, he is already blocking that person on the app and outside of the occasional furtive memory while showering later at the home that he shares with his loving and accepting father (Jeremy Lindsay Taylor), he doesn’t spare them another thought. This may sound extraordinarily foolhardy and dangerous to most right-minded people, but when you consider both Sequin’s comfort with his sexuality and the natural inclination for teenagers to do potentially harmful things to themselves under the belief that youth=indestructibility, the mindset may be slightly more understandable.

Before long, two events occur that throw Sequin’s hedonistic and deliberately solitary existence into turmoil. The first comes when he has an encounter with B (Ed Wightman), a middle-aged married man who becomes instantly fixated on Sequin and wants to see him again. This becomes especially awkward one night when Sequin is invited to The Blue Room, an elaborate group sex party, and is spotted by B, who begins pursuing him through halls where couples are going at it behind walls of translucent blue sheeting. Sequin is rescued at the last second by another participant (Samuel Barrie) and after their inevitable tryst, his rescuer tells him to “find me out there” before slipping away. Sequin is instantly besotted, of course, but has no idea of who this person is or how to find them and his fixation leads him to a series of very bad decisions.

The opening credits for “Sequin in a Blue Room” describe it as “A Homosexual Film By Samuel Van Grinsven,” a clear homage to pioneering gay filmmaker Gregg Araki, who used to introduce movies like “The Living End” and “The Doom Generation” in a similar manner. While Araki was presumably an influence on Van Grinsven, who also co-wrote the screenplay, this film is far more ambitious in terms of story and tone than Araki’s transgressive (and sometimes tedious) efforts. This film moves from lighter elements, such as his attempts to deal with the deeply awkward flirtations of a classmate whose boldest moves are to invite him to a movie and to mention “Brokeback Mountain” in their English class, to the darker material involving the various forms of erotic obsession on display (with the Blue Room sequence coming across like the missing link between “Eyes Wide Shut” and “Mulholland Drive”) and manages to pull both off quite well. The deft juggling of the disparate tones—which at times put me more in the mind of the great François Ozon rather than Araki—is even more impressive when you consider that not only is this Van Grinsen’s directorial debut, it actually began as his graduate project.

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