A thoughtful if slightly strained coming-of-age
A 17-year-old boy comes to grips with his sexuality during an emotionally
charged birthday party in this film written and directed by Stephen Cone.
religious and sexual themes to provocative effect in his coming-of-age story
set during a single fateful day. Beginning with a scene in which two teenage
boys wake up in bed together after a sleepover and proceed to discuss penis
size and engage in a mutual masturbation session,Henry
Gamble's Birthday Partyis destined to
raise a few eyebrows. The film was recently screened at the BAMcinemaFest.
celebrating his 17th birthday, is clearly struggling with his sexuality,
under high stakes conditions since his father is an evangelical pastor at a
suburban megachurch. Henry's not the only member of his family with personal
issues: His mother is deeply unhappy in her marriage, and his sister returning
home after her freshman year at college, is torn between her religious beliefs
and the dizzying freedom of the secular world.
guests at the birthday pool party include a wide assortment of characters
including Henry's friends from both school and church as well as several adult
members of his father's congregation. The presence of the frolicking youngsters
adds a sexual frisson to the proceedings, not-so-subtly illustrated by the
filmmaker when one of the adult men stares at the nubile, bikini-clad young
women, followed by a close-up of his crotch.
inevitably rise to the surface during the long day, including one middle-aged
female church member delivering an impassioned lecture on the evils of sex
trafficking. There's also the disturbing presence of an emotionally fragile
young man who apparently attempted suicide recently and who later performs a
horrifying act of self-mutilation.
young teens also engage in much spirited banter even as Henry becomes
uncomfortable in his interactions with a male classmate who's clearly attracted
filmmaker, the son of a Southern Baptist pastor, explored similar themes in his
critically acclaimed indie featureThe Wise Kids. (hollywoodreporter.com)