Don’t sleep on this fast-paced and thematically juicy Australian indie by debut director Samuel Van Grinsven, which sees a bored 16-year-old schoolboy (Conor Leach) live out a double life as a gay hustler whose online avatar is Sequin.
Announced in the credits as ‘A Homosexual Film’, in a nod to iconic queer director Gregg Araki, Sequin in a Blue Room plunges us straight into a world of mobile app-powered sexual hook-ups, as our supremely confident protagonist locks down a no-strings sexual liaison in a matter of seconds.
We learn, however, that his preferred modus operandi is one based on ghosting, where each client is a one-and-done affair and their profiles are blocked as soon as the clinch is over. This leaves many (mainly older) men disappointed and confused, but allows Sequin to remain in total, emotion-free command of his sexual destiny.
Van Grinsven depicts the various online interactions with scrolling text that appears on the screen, but does so in a way that is stylistically functional – emphasising the transactional nature of Sequin’s lifestyle and expunging it of any kind of fun or glamour. The whole film is shot with a glassy precision, employing lots of shallow focus portraits of bodies in close-up, and much gauzy blue and purple neon light to signify a world of hazy enigmas just sitting in the middle distance.
The “Blue Room” of the title is the name of a surreal sex party to which Sequin manages to snag an invite. It’s a space where nude men writhe in orgasmic pleasure behind semi-transparent tarpaulin sheets and no one is allowed to utter a word. Sequin falls in with a mystery partner and, suddenly, his listless, production-line approach to relationships doesn’t seem so ideal any more.
As quickly as the party starts, it’s over, and Sequin finds himself in the same position as the men he rejected who are desperate for another taste. What starts as an alternative high-school film about how the digital world collapses the gap between generations, ends up as an effective thriller about lust getting the better of us in the end.
Leach is magnetic and illusive in the lead, and Van Grinsven brings this spicy story together in a way which is at once compelling as a genre film and sex-positive as a study of social mores.
Sequin in a Blue Room is released via Peccadillo Pictures on digital platforms from 9 April.
Odd title, and the lead looks like a young Eddie Redmayne.
Beautifully made, original and focused. Van Grinsven is one to watch.
The film achieves so much on a low budget through subtle formal innovation.
Samuel Van Grinsven
Jeremy Lindsay Taylor
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