A cautionary tale about the thrills and perils of recreational sex in the digital dating world, Sequin in a Blue Room is a risqué but nonetheless important teen-aimed drama that offers something of a safe space for queer or questioning audiences regarding the nature of their sexual selves.
An erotic film without being overtly explicit – for a feature about public cruising and casual sex it’s considerably tame (though certainly not neutered) – Sequin… is a striking debut from New Zealand-born queer filmmaker Samuel Van Grinsven, one that feels incredibly assured in its ability to both cater exclusively to the community who’ll relate to it and the general audience who may potentially be unaware of just how dangerous the online hook-up world can actually be.
At the centre of the film – the Sequin of its title – is star Conor Leach, a beautiful, near-androgynous-type presence who commands practically every frame of the story as a curious 16-year-old who has named himself after the sequinned top he favours during his unacknowledged sexual encounters. Far too young to be indulging in such acts – he claims he’s 18 in his online profile – but already seemingly bored with the traditional dating scene, Sequin is addicted to the anonymity that comes with his obvious fetish for older men, many of whom seem to delight in his delicate features as he provides the thrill they perhaps missed during the youthful days of their more closed-minded generation.
Whilst Sequin clearly indulges in being their toy for sexual amusement, the presumed power held by the dominant older men he visits is only momentary as evident by Sequin’s penchant for quickly blocking their respective profiles as soon as he leaves. As much as he strives to keep things safe, his online reputation earns him an invite to “The Blue Room”, a sex den of sorts sated with the type of older men that our young Sequin can’t seem to quit.
This centrepiece sequence is shot quite sensually, never veering into the seedy mentality that so obviously underlines what is taking place, and perhaps to feel more in-tune with the oasis that Sequin is experiencing, the scene is imbued with a blue lighting that only adds to the dream-like haze he is in. As he catches the eye of one potential partner (Damien de Montemas), Sequin realises he’s been stalked by a former conquest (Ed Wightman‘s mysterious “B”) who didn’t take too kindly to being dismissed so abruptly, and it’s in only a matter of minutes that the realisation of his actions come to light.
A violent path laced with the emotional and physical aftermath of fleeting connection is soon Sequin’s journey as he tries to distance himself from B. There’s a painfulness in watching an impressionable teen fall down the rabbit hole of predatory behaviour – made all the more effective by the fact that Sequin’s father (Jeremy Lindsay Taylor) is incredibly understanding and supportive of his son’s sexuality – but Sequin… doesn’t aim to be a film where our characters suffer for their sexuality, a rude awakening yes, but it’s a story demoralising behaviour over sexual preference.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Sequin in a Blue Room will be screening exclusively at select Dendy cinemas (Newtown, Canberra and Coorparoo) from August 20th 2020.