Sunday, 11 January 2009
Director: Gabriel Fleming.
Principal cast: Ian Scott McGregor, Lucas Alifano, Lindsay Benner, Chris Yule.
Sexuality is never black and white. No matter how much the mainstream society is set on mainstreaming people in its midst by trying to categorise everything and put everyone in a box with an easily recognisable label on it, there will always be grey areas defying such approach. Gabriel Fleming’s second feature film „The Lost Coast” navigates through one such grey area challenging, in director’s own words, the dominant gay/straight dichotomy. Well, other people may call this grey area bisexuality but I guess that’s also just another box.
Mark and Lily, who share a flat, are joined by Jasper and Caleb, their old high school friends for the Halloween celebrations in San Francisco’s Castro district. All four of them still in their early twenties, they are ostensibly set for a raucous night out, one night per year when you can look like Charles Manson or Mother Theresa and still get laid. But what is supposed to be a fun night out turns into a miserable wandering through the desolate inner landscapes of the film’s protagonists, unearthing old half-secrets and potent emotions barely hidden behind their cynically cool exterior.
The story is narrated as an e-mail which Jasper writes the day after the Halloween night to his girlfriend, currently somewhere overseas, the purpose of which is as much to clear Jasper’s head and put words to his feelings and frustrations as it is meant to explain to his girlfriend the nature of the relationship he and Mark shared in high school. Now an out and proud gay man, Mark actually used to date Lily in those days. But once, when all three of them went on a camping trip to the titular Lost Coast somewhere in northern California, the two boys struck a relationship which couldn’t be described as other than intimate. The two boys weren’t, however, exactly on the same wave length when it came to the feelings that this „fooling around”, as Lily refered to it at one point, aroused in them. Mark was always seen as the cool and smart guy, always excelling at everything he did while Jasper was more of an introverted person, feeling privileged to be Mark’s friend. By being with him, he felt better about himself, letting Mark’s coolness spill on him too while to Mark, he apparently was mostly a guy that he could experiment with. After graduation they parted their ways, evidently no questions asked but now back face-to-face with each other, the ghosts of their past relationship came back to haunt them - feelings that were never discussed, words that were never said. And the situation isn’t made easier by the presence of Lily whose resigned and melancholic disposition is only reinforced by her Pierrot’s outfit or Caleb whose tactless open-mouthedness only serves as a catalyst for the unavoidable confrontation.
At one point, as the foursome are mooching about in Castro’s district, Caleb asks Lily if Jasper is actually straight to which she only replies with a „well” which sounds more like „where do I begin”. Being able to put people in boxes, especially with respect to their sexuality, makes things easier for so many people as it replaces any need for independent thinking and any imagination whatsoever. Sexuality, just like people’s personality traits, is individual and although most people find themselves attracted to one gender in the end, it doesn’t mean that they have never had or been capable of having feelings for both genders. Jasper may not be gay but that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t in love with Mark. At the same time, Mark’s feelings for Lily may have been as genuine when they dated.
„The Lost Coast” is very much a poetic film. Its dreamlike pseudo-flashback sequences of Jasper, Mark and Lily wandering through the cold and unhospitable landscapes of the fateful coast resonate perfectly well with the lyrics of their emotions. They walk through thick grass, swamps and barren bushes, sometimes waiting for each other, sometimes barging ahead on their own. The nearly transcendental atmosphere of the film complements its sense of raw authenticity, well aided by the convincing performances of the young actors. All in all, it’s one of those rare films where the slow-pacedness eventually leads to a meditative state of mind and that’s not so bad for a change.
Here you can watch the film's trailer: