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By Doug Brunell | August 23, 2006

This film, which is based on a book, was made in New Zealand for a reason. It could have never been made in America because the subject matter, as tame as it may be and as maturely handled as it is, would offend too many people. What is that subject matter? Gender issues in children and a same sex crush on an older man (who is also desired by a girl just entering puberty). That said, this is a family film that kids may really like … if they have really liberal parents who can explain some of the nuances to them. Yeah, good luck with that.

Set in 1975, the film centers around the heavyset Billy (Andrew Paterson), an adolescent who often fancies himself as a female astronaut. He imagines his cousin, Lou (Harriet Beattie), as his male counterpart. Lou is a girl, however, who is just starting to develop. That doesn’t stop her from being a tomboy, though. Thrown into the mix is the new kid, Roy (Jay Collins), who is every bit the outsider. He and Billy are kindred spirits who hang out together (usually in secret), and m********e each other. When a twentysomething farmhand named Jamie (Michael Dorman) arrives at Billy’s home, the man becomes an object of fixation for Lou and Billy, while Roy just stands in the woods and seethes with the kind of anger boys his age seem to have in spades. Lou tries to act more feminine to capture JamieÕs eye, while Billy watches the guy take showers and tries to kiss him in his sleep. Roy? He gets a gun.

Again, this film could never be made in America. Conservatives would fume. NAMBLA would pre-order the DVD, and the ratings board would have no idea what to do with it, though by all accounts the harshest rating it could possibly get would be PG-13 for some language which isn’t really all that bad. It’s the tone of the film that would cause the problem.

The movie is professional and mature, and it is also tasteful. Older kids and young teens will probably like it, though the younger ones may not get everything that’s going on. Adults, on the other hand, will be very uncomfortable. The fact that it’s not sleazy seems to make the ideas presented even more unsettling … at least to those a little less than open-minded. The fact of the matter is that this is a great coming of age film that doesn’t shy away from “taboo” subject matter. This kind of stuff goes on all the time with kids, but few adults ever even think about it. Guess what? Kids can be sexual, and because of that they experiment. Sometimes kids develop crushes on adults, and they try to act on them. Scary? Only when adults take advantage of it. It’s part of growing up, and that’s rarely shown in films, especially with kids this young.

Hats off to the filmmakers and actors here. They’ve made a film Americans should see but most never will because they could never handle it. Good job. You deserve more than one award.

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