Small, precise, beautifully observed coming-of-age story from Belgium, the first feature-length pic from Bavo Defurne is a ‘60s (?) period piece that builds a complex relationship between its characters, coastal environment and the changing weather as touchstone to teenage moods. 15-yr-old Pim is best pals with 18-yr-old neighbor Gino, all but a member of the family. The sexual play between the boys may just be horny fooling around for the older boy, but it’s a serious crush for Pim, a sensitive kid, barely noticed at home by a sluttish mom turning to fat. Over the course of three years, Gino moves on to a regular girlfriend, his kid sister waits impatiently for Pim to notice her and Pim’s mom grows less concerned then ever. Emotional tidal waves to a teen with no ballast to keep him grounded. All given sharp visual dimension with cramped home interiors in contrast to the handsome matte look of a waterfront locale, lovingly realized by cinematographer Anton Mertens (via Red One digital) and production designer Kurt Rigolle who lets us discover the period elements on our own rather than clobber us with them. Then, there’s that memorable bar where Pim hangs out during his mom’s dates.
Possibly inspired by the famous mansion in the middle of nowhere from GIANT/’56, this one gives the film its name. A tacked on epilogue rounds things off a little too clearly/neatly, when they might well have ended with a preceding funeral, but does little damage.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Jelle Florizoone, who plays Pim, ages from 15 to 18 with subtle conviction. Slight adjustments in hair, height & lighting do the trick without the fuss of a big budget pic.
DOUBLE-BILL: All those wild reeds waving in the coastline breeze should lead you straight to André Téchiné’s similarly themed (far more substantial) WILD REEDS/’95.