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Sublime (2022) Mariano Biasin, Argentina

 A teenage boy in Argentina practices with his rock band and falls in love with his best friend, struggling to tell him how he feels.

A film that has been described as “underplayed” but I would describe as undeveloped. Many scenes play out with no clear purpose, nothing is revealed of the characters and nothing is developed in the plot, which becomes quite frustrating. The aspect ratio is wide, though the camera holds claustrophobically close on the actors' faces or the backs of their heads, and the focus is shallow, suggesting an intimacy and interiority. However, even the protagonist, who takes up most of the screentime, we learn nothing about, what he is thinking or feeling, witnessing only his moody eyes and messy, black, curly fringe.

This is a film that wouldn't exist without the undiscriminating market of the international queer film festival. There is an endless array of films about cute teenage boys struggling with their sexuality. However the actors are usually older than the characters and we are privileged with a depth of insight into their external and internal worlds. Here the actors look like they're actually teenagers, they burp in each other's faces for laughs, cannot communicate their feelings and spend lots of time staring moodily at their phones. Rather than witnessing a penetrating artistic portrait, I felt like I was just hanging out with immature and inexpressive teenagers, which was not fun.

There is a genuine feeling to the milieu, but no depth to the characterisations. The authenticity is most evident in the band performances. The characters are clearly writing and rehearsing their own four-piece rock band, genuinely working hard and improving. There is no post-dubbing or conspicuously well-rehearsed performances. But like most newly-formed teen rock bands, they're not very good.

(Spoiler alert.) The film does not justifies the title, awkward being a more appropriate adjective. A more appropriate title would be Nothing Will Change, a phrase that is whispered in one of the only sublime moments, when the protagonist is dreaming of intimacy with his best friend and bandmate. It is indicative of his friend accepting him after the revelation of his attraction, but also an unfortunate admission that there is almost no development in the entire running time of the film. The only point of tension is whether or not he will admit his love, and there are many frustrating scenes in which he does not. When he finally does it is very underwhelming, though there is a certain poignancy to it not being a big deal.

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