For his first feature-length production, filmmaker Samuel Van Grinsven gives us Sequin in a Blue Room.
Reading the synopsis, it sounds a bit trashy and exploitative, but it’s much better than that. Van Grinsven gives us an intelligently crafted film with compelling storytelling.
Sequin in a Blue Room is the story of Sequin. He’s a 16-year-old who is exploring his burgeoning sexuality through an obsession with anonymous, no-strings sexual encounters. That is until he finds his way into The Blue Room – a strictly anonymous, limitless sex party – where a whole new, alluring world unfolds before him. There, Sequin connects with a captivating stranger, but they are separated suddenly. Utterly fixated on this man, Sequin sets off on a mission to track him down.
The key themes that Van Grinsven is exploring in this film are adolescent sexuality, hook-up app culture and the way that technology shapes our lives, and the powerful forces of desire and obsession.
Van Grinsven somehow manages to combine a dream-like sense of dystopia with emotions and encounters that feel very authentic.
Sound plays a really key role in the overall feel of the film, and light is also used with strong effect. One of the real successes of the film is the way that in-app conversations and interactions are overlaid on the screen – it feels very real-time and true-to-life.
One of the really intelligent choices that Van Grinsven has made is that there’s no moral judgment attached to anything that we’re watching. Initially, that’s a bit disconcerting – we’re watching a film about a hyper-sexualised 16-year-old boy and because that story is unfolding in a moral vacuum I found myself wondering how I should be feeling about what I’m watching, and how was I supposed to process the information I was being presented with. But, by presenting Sequin’s story in this way, it becomes much more powerful – no one is the victim here, people have made unwise choices, and there’s plenty of interactions that are morally questionable, but allocating blame isn’t the objective of this story.
The other thing I really liked about this film was that the character of Sequin felt like a very contemporary young guy. His sexuality isn’t even a topic for discussion – he’s gay, he knows he’s gay, everyone knows he’s gay, he’s doing what young gay guys do.
Sequin is at that age where he’s just starting to realise his power and his potential. He’s more interested in older guys because he enjoys the validation they give him and the power-play of being emotionally unavailable to them. He feels invincible, he’s fearless, but he’s also vulnerable and still figuring stuff out.
Ultimately, what makes this film work is the performance of Conor Leach in the central role of Sequin. This was his first major role and – without much dialogue to work with – he delivers a fully realised character. Leach is pretty much in every scene in the film and he makes Sequin seem totally authentic and compelling. It’s really impressive.