In the remote landscape of the digital world, everything is different. Reading has evolved from turning the leaf of a book to scrolling through a tablet, online classes have reshaped the way people learn, and dating has taken an inevitable turn from spontaneous meet-cutes to methodically programmed hook-up apps. Whether these changes are for better or worse, this is the way things are now. Such is the premise for Samuel Van Grinsven’s Sequin in a Blue Room, which follows the titular Sequin – a high schooler deep in the world of no-strings sexual encounters – who receives an invite to an anonymous sex party known as the ‘Blue Room’. Conor Leach as Sequin gives a remarkable first-time feature performance, beautifully embodying the angst, affection, and Twilight-loving side of teenage life.
On a conceptual level, Van Grinsven’s feature debut is a riveting and unique output for queer cinema, as the protagonist’s primary issue doesn’t rest in his sexuality – a common focus for LGBT+ stories in mainstream cinema. Though coming out and accepting one’s sexuality is a formative aspect in the life of any queer person, Van Grinsven opts for a different perspective, telling the story of someone comfortable with their sexuality and facing issues that stem from broader ideas of love and relationships which can be read as far more universal. Sequin, as a result, is a refreshing lead as someone who has fully embraced his queer identity. Ultimately, this film is a different type of coming of age story, one that’s heavily grounded in the horrors and joys of the digital sphere.
In the post-screening Q&A, Van Grinsven stated that Sequin began “with just an image – the idea of the ‘Blue Room’”. And what an image it is. The Blue Room, in its tantalising hues and jaw-dropping aura, is portrayed perfectly – it’s a space commanded with a level of assurance behind a singular vision; one which follows multiple generations of queer people with largely different experiences colliding in a single space. It also best embodies how the digital world is embraced in Sequin. Technology is neither glorified nor criticised, but rather tackled earnestly, showcasing both wonderful and detrimental experiences that could only surface from the online world. The digital world’s impact is further realised through the use of location – with the exception of Sequin’s high school, the story is told through a myriad of apartments. By cutting from one sequence to the next through changing room numbers, the dating sphere comes across as isolated from the outside world; both a provocative microcosm that’s daunting to traverse, and a playground to be enthusiastically explored.
Where the film slightly falters is in its writing. Several superbly introduced plot points and concepts, as well as Sequin’s life before the events of the film, feel so underdeveloped that it makes it difficult for the audience to fill in the blanks. Clocking in at only 80 minutes, Sequin certainly paces well but would’ve benefited from a more fleshed out story. Nevertheless, for a debut feature, there is plenty to latch onto and admire, and Van Grinsven’s direction certainly promises fantastic things for his future.
According to Van Grinsven at the MIFF Q&A, Australia should be expecting Sequin in a Blue Room to screen in cinemas early next year. See it for the importance of supporting Aussie queer cinema and new voices in the industry, then stay for the trancelike state of the delicate and hypnotic Blue Room.
Sequin in a Blue Room played at the Melbourne International Film Festival and will be playing at the Reeling Film Festival in Chicago in September.
George Kapaklis is a Melbourne-based film student and writer who attempts to imbue his obsessive love of musicals and ABBA into everything he does. He’s rather fond of movies of all kinds and writes about them far too often on Letterboxd. You can find him on Twitter at @GeorgeKapaklis.