Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Way He Looks (2014): A Blind Coming Out Story

The Way He Looks (2014)
dir: Daniel Ribiero

SIFF 2014 Film #13

I am so fucking sick of coming-of-age LGBTQ films where nobody is really evil, and all the tension is from coming out of the closet and getting your first boyfriend. I realize that this is a legitimate genre, and needs to be updated for every generation that comes of age, but…goddammit, I am so fucking sick of it. It’s my problem, and it’s not the fault of any specific movie, but if I never see another teenager struggle for their freedom while also coming out of the closet, I’ll be a happy happy faggot.

The Way He Looks adds in the complication of the main teenager, Leo, being blind and thus giving him overprotective parents who seek to protect him given his disability. But, otherwise it runs through the usual gay teenage tropes. It gives him his teenage female best friend, who kind of has an unrequited crush on him. It gives him a new interloper best friend, whom he is intended to fall in love with. It gives him the bullies who make fun of him and call him gay before he even comes out. It gives him a desire to escape the town he lives in. It’s all so…done.

That being said, The Way He Looks isn’t BAD so much as it is TIRED. If you’ve seen the usual coming-of-age stories, then The Way He Looks will hold no surprises. The best scene is the mid-credits tag that has nothing to do with anything. The second best scene is Leo learning how to shave from his father, as his father talks with him about a student exchange program.

The Way He Looks isn’t poorly constructed either. It has the semi-soft, twee, limited-palette, limited focus dreamy look that so many indie movies have had in recent years. That look is fine, if you’re into that, but I’m starting to get tired of it after seeing so many many movies look so so similar. They’re all looking at sweet emotions that are just so touching.

Basically, The Way He Looks has come up too late in many of the tropes it puts out. It’s not bad, if you’re wanting another gay teenage coming of age story, only with no real rebellion. The worst thing that Leo does is sneak out at night to look at an eclipse. Or, maybe it’s drinking a whole bunch of vodka and then going swimming on a class camping trip. But, the rebellion isn’t really all that rebellious. The closest to an actual negative emotion you feel for any of the characters is frustration at their inability to communicate.

The Way He Looks has an interesting point of view in that neither Leo nor his object of affection are really conflicted about their sexuality, but more conflicted about the outside acceptance. Much of the tension comes over whether each of them wants to risk queering their friendship for the risk of dating each other, rather than "I can't <b>REALLY</b> be gay, can I?" and also rather than most of it coming from the bullies or the parents.

There is a new trope that is coming around in the coming out movie where the kid doesn't actually come out to his parents. In both this, and the 2014 Netherlands film <i>Boys</i>, the central figure comes out to maybe 2 friends, but never confronts his parents. There is no blessed acceptance, nor a fiery condemnation. That situation is never resolved in either film, creating the one new trope in modern gay film.

If you want an easy going non-descript coming-of-age story out of Portugal with skinny boys who get naked once or twice, then you’ll probably love The Way He Looks. It’s probably the perfect film during which you could make out (or more) with your boyfriend. But, if you’ve seen all of the coming of age stories, and are looking for a new twist on the genre, or something that maybe even reflects how the youth of today actually looks at the world, then skip it.

No comments:

Post a Comment