QFest movie review for “Jitters”

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

I was told recently that gays run from any film that is deemed a “coming of age” flick.  I don’t know, because when I see that phrase, I run right at it full speed ahead.  While I am sure that there are gays out there that have had perfectly delightful coming out experiences, shrowded in a blanket of love and support from family and friends and little to no confusion, this was not my story, nor is it the tail of Gabriel in the movie “Jitters”.

Please forgive me if I don’t give you the actors real names for this movie, as the movie is from Iceland, and if you thought my name was hard to spell or pronounce, forget it.  There was also little information for me to find.  I will attach a website for the film that includes stills and a trailer for you to check out.  While  I was able to find some information online, this EDAA (Icelandic Oscars) nominated film is just making its way to the states and our QFest was lucky enough to have it.

The movie starts out with main character, Gabriel, heading to England from his home in Iceland for a summer English immersion program.  He is paired up in his room assignment with Marcus, also from Iceland.  While Gabriel is dark and brooding, Marcus is light, rebellious and adventurous.  This factor is also juxtaposed with the actor playing Gabriel having dark hair and eyes and Marcus being blond and blue eyed. The two sixteen year olds become friends and bond through pub and dance club adventures that Marcus has to twist shy rule following Gabriel’s arm to do.  Gabriel repeatedly mentions that his mother will kill him if he messes up this school opportunity, while it seems that Marcus never goes to the classes, doesn’t speak of friends or family at home and is more concerned with exploring their new environment.  On their last night together, spent getting drunk at a local club, they share a kiss.  The dynamic between the actors is palpable. 

They return home and Gabriel is immediately back to his old life with a strained family dynamic.  His mother is overbearing and pushing to get into the private Gabriel’s life.  Some of the funniest scenes are when the mother schedules “family meetings” between her, her boyfriend, her ex husband and Gabriel.  He has returned from the trip quiet and aloof and his mother is pushing to find out why.  These meetings are futile as the men are not really interested in pushing and it ends up just being a stage to further drive a wedge between Gabriel and his mother.

While this movie centers around him and his teenage struggles of sexual identity, his group of friends are all dealing with their own “growing pains”.  When he returns home, he finds that his best friend, Stella, has resumed cutting herself and states to him that it was because she missed him.  She is struggling with being raised by her overbearing racist grandmother, who might have a little cocaine issue.  While Gabriel and Stella are best friends, he has never told her that he is struggling with his sexuality, and she appears to be deep in unrequited love with him, which was shown perfectly in an awkward scene when she attempts to seduce him.

The movie starts out a little slow but picked up the pace about a third of the way in.  We are introduced to Gabriel’s group of friends, all with their own issues of alcoholism, depression, abusive and neglectful caretakers and the like.  There is not one person in his life that is not struggling in one way or another.  This is what makes this movie perfect for anyone.  While Gabriel is struggling with his sexuality, the movie touches on all of the issues that plague teens when they are growing up.  Where do you fit in and who is going to help you get there?

After Gabriel returns home, he keeps a safe distance from Marcus.  They text with each other but that is as far as he will go.  None of his group of friends have any idea what happened in England or that he is questioning his sexuality.  This is evident as he is repeatedly propositioned by the various girls in his life.  Gabriel finally agrees to meet up with Marcus at a party at Marcus’ brother’s house.  You can feel the excitement and nervousness coming off the screen.  However, at the party, Marcus makes out with a girl at the party and disappears.  When Gabriel finally finds him having sex with the girl in one of the bedrooms, it is one of the most heartwrenching scenes in the movie.  It was so raw, real and painful and the actor that plays Gabriel’s haunting eyes and expressive face capture perfectly emotions that I am sure we have all experienced.  From that point on, he ignores all communication from Marcus and focuses on all of the issues of his friends, while simultaneously retreating into himself.

That is until he runs into him, what seems to be weeks later, at a school dance.  They have an aggressive exchange and Gabriel storms out.  One of Gabriel’s best friends steps to Marcus as if to beat him up when Marcus yells, “He is gay!” Simultaneously, the despair and depression that his best friend Stella has been feeling comes to a head in the plot changer of the movie, when she kills herself, while the rest of her friends are still at the dance.  I am getting the chills now as I type this.  The main still for the movie, that I have included, is from a hospital scene when they find out that she did not make it.

While her death crushes all of the friends, it seems to push them into big changes and decisions in their lives.  Gabriel opens up about his sexuality to Greta, a good friend who is struggling with an alcoholic party mom and unkown father.  He tells her of the kiss and says that “it was the first time that he felt jitters” when he kissed someone and that he has been spending this time refusing to believe he was gay.  He then decides to finally contact Marcus for the first time since their blow up scene at the dance.

When they meet, they both discuss that neither one of them have been with a boy before but they want to try and navigate it together.  This culminates at the end with a funny scene at Gabriel’s house where he introduces Marcus to his mother and her boyfriend.

As I said, while the movie started out a little slow, I think it was more to set the scene of all of the complications in the lives of all of the characters.  While this movie is in a gay film festival, its messages are for anyone that has struggled with issues of family, sexuality and belonging.  It has a killer soundtrack and some great cutting edge teenage fashions.  I can’t say enough about the amazing performance given by the actor that played Gabriel.

“Jitters” will be playing again on Sunday, July 10th and Tuesday, July 12th.  It is definitely worth taking a look.  http://www.jittersfilm.com/


Read Related Posts...