From its opening titles it is clear that Sequin in a Blue Room is a cinematic experience confident in its identity and message. Described as ‘A Homosexual Film from Samuel Van Grimsven’, this debut feature is an intoxicating one examining queer coming of age in a digital era. Capturing the thrills and dangers of app-based hook-up culture, balanced alongside teenage fantasy and exploration of queerness.
Written by Van Grimsven and Jory Anast, Sequin in a Blue Room centres on a sixteen year old protagonist who uses an anonymous hook-up app to explore his sexuality through no-strings encounters. Prioritising sexual discovery over safety, Sequin (Conor Leach) attends The Blue Room, a limitless sex party, where he meets Edward (Samuel Barrie) before being suddenly separated. Captivated by this handsome stranger, Sequin begins an Alice in Wonderland style journey through the dangers and excitement of a sexual underworld to find Edward.
Comparisons to Alice in Wonderland feel apt in the coming of age angle of Sequin in a Blue Room with our protagonist experiencing the onset of adulthood and burgeoning sexuality, whilst Edward becomes our mysterious White Rabbit that Sequin desperately hunts. Sequin faces the dangers of married older men with a lot to lose and fierce femme queens in this progressively more manic mission to be reunited with Edward.
Opening with Sequin in a school library flicking through queer erotica, he captures the eye of handsome stranger who he later meets through his ‘Anon’ hook-up app, we quickly see his no strings approach of meeting and blocking different men after sex. His single father gives him a lot of freedom, yet this is something that progressively becomes more tense as Sequin exposes himself to more dangerous situations. We get a sense of a young man, keen to push the limits of his sexual desires, with his continual blocking giving an indication of his aim to not form an emotional attachment to any of the men he meets – yet this changes with Edward.
Jay Grant’s cinematography is truly intoxicating – particularly as Sequin enter The Blue Room. Enigmatic blue lighting, reflecting on distorted plastic sheets produces a distinctive environment for this scene of boundary-pushing sexuality. Set with thumping club music and seas of sweaty scantily-clad male bodies, The Blue Room is like a slightly daunting sweet shop for Sequin. The lack of conversation in The Blue Room also heightens the artistic style of Samuel Van Grimsven’s film – it’s enigmatic, unsettling, and entrancing.
Even the sex scenes have a real artistic flourish – shot with a romanticised and sensual action before hand – often silent yet heated. After these hook-ups, the grimy realism comes to a head with the static hotel noises and post-coital awkwardness coming into play. These feelings also a clear factor in Sequin’s desire to block and move on after each hook-up.
Van Grimsven and Anast’s narrative is a subtly thrilling one with Sequin in a Blue Room veering between erotic drama to taut suspense thriller. Whilst the film rightly does not condemn hook-up culture or want to look down upon it, it instead uses it as a vehicle for some sharp moments of unsettling drama. Sequin begins to use a dangerous married older gentleman who displays somewhat obsessive tendencies towards him as a means to gain info about The Blue Room in the hope of tracking down Edward. The gradually more extreme behaviour of this hook-up paired with Sequin placing himself in more precarious positions as events progresses, produces a hugely tense watch.
Sequin in a Blue Room is a truly spectacular account of queer coming of age in a digital area – it feels fresh, vital, and gripping. To its credit, the film features a magnetic lead performance from young Conor Leach, artistic and enigmatic aesthetics, sharp direction from Samuel Van Grimsven which blends beauty, sensuality and thrills, in a well-crafted, gradually escalating narrative. This is a must see.
Sequin in a Blue Room is released via Peccadillo Pictures on UK/Ireland digital platforms from 9th April. The film is released in the US & Scandinavia from 17th May.