The opening credits to New Zealand-born filmmaker Samuel Van Grinsven’s debut Sequin in a Blue Room ensure that audiences are left assured of what is to come. The usual ‘a film by’ statement is replaced with ‘a homosexual film by Samuel Van Grinsven.’ It is a proud declaration – one that feels entirely fitting for a picture as bold as this.
The Australian coming-of-age tale is in the vanguard of boundary-pushing Queer cinema. It is set in a world where sexuality is not questioned or traumatic – at least for most part. Sequin (Conor Leach) is a 16-year-old student who spends his nights flitting from one anonymous hook-up to the next, all via a Grinder-style app.
The protagonist lives with his single father (Jeremy Lindsay Taylor), who has little idea of his son’s nightly ventures. At school, Sequin sits at the back of the classroom, lost in a digital world of buff torsos – all displayed on screen – while the never-seen teacher drones on in the background.
Even fellow pupil Tommy (Simon Croker), who invites Sequin to a movie, seems pedestrian compared to the titular character’s nightly escapades. In Sequin’s online life, everyone is known by initials – ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’. Even the various locations in the film are registered as simply ‘Apartment 1’ or a numerical equivalent.
The only more descriptive locale is the ‘blue room’, a party venue for no-strings sex, where Sequin enjoys an erotic tryst with a unidentified young man (Samuel Barrie). Breaking his own rule – he usually refuses to see the same person twice – he tries to discover the identity of his fleeting partner. It’s a quest that leads him down a rabbit hole, towards violent encounters with older men but also to friendship and understanding.
Stylishly rendered, Van Grinsven’s film – which was his graduation work – recalls American filmmaker Gregg Araki, whose influence looms large. In Leach, the director has a beguiling young lead, who fully commits to his role – making this a hugely watchable debut film. Deftly exploring sexuality in the modern age, this is a movie that refuses to be ignored.
Sequin in a Blue Room is available on demand. For more details, click here.