Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

Four

The four protagonists in Joshua Sanchez’s impressive debut feature all share the same problem of loneliness and a desperate need for a lover and friend. The story takes place in Hartford Connecticut on a sultry Fourth of July, and by the time the night is over, despite their attempts to reach out to someone, they all end more alone than ever.
 

June is a meek 16 year old boy who has been chatting online with Joe a middle-aged African American college professor and they have arranged to meet up at an abandoned strip mall for a date. For the next few hours they drive around somewhat aimlessly as Joe tries to get the shy teenager to open up and talk. They stop first at a movie theater where June starts to relax ‘here when the lights go down you can be anonymous’ and then they eventually end up at a motel.  It always seems like June may back out from any sexual contact as he delays it as long as he can, but he concedes willingly in the end even if he appears both reluctant and hesitant.

 
Meanwhile at the other side of town Joe’s daughter Abigayle who believes that her father is away on a business trip, is bored at home caring for her chronically depressed mother. She calls Dexter a mixed-race half-Latino boy she recently met and asks him to come and rescue her for a while as her mother is asleep. He is an un-educated cocky youth who has hang ups about their different racial backgrounds and is desperate for Abigayle’s seal of approval. She on the other hand seems to want to just fulfill a need for some physical contact, and so after having some meaningless sex she gets quiet and withdrawn and demands to be taken home. It’s on this car drive back that she passes a Fast Food Restaurant and espies her father hanging out with young June.
 
It’s a chilling disturbing piece given the fact that the encounter between the two men is illegal, and more than questionably immoral. The fact that the former is mentioned in passing but never addressed in anyway is somewhat disconcerting. In the car Joe has been exemplary paternal with genuine concern for June but once inside the Motel it is positively creepy watching the way that he lusts after the youth’s body. The fact that he is a well educated man serves merely to exasperate the reality that he is such a predator. Whilst the script may not take issue with this, it is nigh on impossible not to make you shiver. 
 
This excellent study of loneliness was based on award-winning gay playwright Christopher Shin’s first play that he remarkably wrote back in 1995 at the tender age of 20.  I’m guessing that as June, full of self-hate with his difficultly accepting his sexuality was the character that gained our sympathy the most, was possibly because it contained some of Shin’s own teenage traumas growing up in the suburbs.

Very well adapted by Mr Sanchez who kept a great feeling of intimacy about the piece by using his hand-held camera to focus on tight close-ups for much of the action.  Praiseworthy performances from all four leads, particularly young Emory Cohen (June ) who burst on to our screens last year in The Place Beyond The Pines’, and especially Wendall Pearce the veteran TV actor (‘The Wire’, ‘Treme’ etc) for taking on the controversial role of Joe and embracing the character so completely.

There is a point in the plot where Joe is trying to counsel young desperately lonely June and he advises him that ‘you want someone to make you real’. His remarks maybe aimed at the teenager but he is also saying it too himself.

No matter how uncomfortable the subject matter is, the movie makes for compelling viewing.


Posted by queerguru  at  16:39

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Genres:  coming out

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