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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 7, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 49
Lost at sea
Arts & Entertainment
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Lost at sea

North Sea Texas has its charms but ultimately disappoints

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

NORTH SEA TEXAS
Opens December 7


Pim (Jelle Florizoone) isn't happy. Lonely and introverted, the teen feels neglected by his gadabout single mother, Yvette (Eva van der Gucht), while also harboring a secret crush on his slightly older next-door neighbor, Gino (Mathias Vergels). Circumstances evolve, relationships change, and soon Pim realizes he must be open about his feelings no matter the cost, unsure whether doing so will alienate him further from him mom and ruin any chance for a future with his outgoing and athletic friend. But that's part of growing up, and if the young boy is going to live an honest life and have the future he dreams about, the truth must come out - and, sometime soon, so must he.

I can't say I'm quite as taken with the Belgian import North Sea Texas as so many others seem to be. After watching it during last spring's Seattle International Film Festival, I felt no need to write in-depth about it one way or the other, the only notes I took singling out Florizoone for an impassioned, gently magnetic performance. But the movie itself? As handsomely produced as it was, as nicely understated as Bavo Defurne's direction proved to be, I couldn't help but feel like I'd watched this film before, the final product delivering little, if anything, I hadn't already seen numerous times.

Revisiting the movie several months later, many of my thoughts and feelings toward it remain unchanged. Defurne, working from a script he co-wrote with Yves Verbraeken and adapted from André Sollie's novel, does handle the proceedings with a delicately dexterous touch, never overplaying the inherent melodrama of the piece and allowing Pim's journey to more often than not eloquently speak for itself. Additionally, the film has a visual aesthetic that's colorfully intoxicating, director of photography Anton Mertens delivering images that feel lived-in and suitably rusticated.

A STELLAR PERFORMANCE
Then there is Florizoone. As stated, he is the end-all, be-all of this film, and much like Quvenzhané Wallis (who I realize is almost a decade his junior) in Beasts of the Southern Wild he cuts a magnetic and emotionally complex swath virtually impossible to resist. There are layers to his performance that are oftentimes surprising, and for much of the narrative I was never quite sure what he was going to do or say next, making his ultimate destination a somewhat startling one filled with internal nuances and emotional truisms.

Yet my reservations remain. The subplot concerning Yvette is a little ham-fisted and obvious, and if Defurne does ever ratchet up the melodrama it is directly related to the moments and scenes involving her. I also couldn't help but wish that Gino had been fleshed out more, and as good as Vergels is in the part (he's close to wonderful), as a character he frustratingly maintains a one-dimensionality that drove me nuts.

I do get why international and domestic festival audiences have fallen in love with the film. There are numerous superlatives that can be thrown the picture's way, and in the end the climactic dramatics do hit home in a way that is potent and pure. I just can't help but feel like with a little more effort - maybe an additional rewrite - Defurne and company could have avoided many of the inherent clichés of the story and gone on to craft something magical. As it is, North Sea Texas isn't without its merits. I just don't know if there are enough of them to make up for its more obvious shortcomings.

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