Based on a true story, this American indie film has an awkward style that completely undermines its tale of coming out in the early 1970s. It’s about the 17-year-old Peter (Sam Levine) who heads off to university and is soon involved in a menage-a-trois with his roommate Joe (Trevor Lissauer) and Joe’s girlfriend Bess (Amber Taylor). But when Joe realizes that Peter is more interested in him than in Bess, things get messy and Peter takes refuge in the home of a sympathetic teacher (Julio Perillan), which causes a new set of problems.
Yes, the subject matter is strong, especially in the period when the hippy-ethic freedom hid an undercurrent of homophobia. Strangely, director Anne Misawa makes very little use of the time period–we have to keep reminding ourselves this is 1972 because she rarely does. And the gravity of the story is further undermined by amateurish film techniques, most notably an excessive use of cutaways and blurry slo-mo–genuinely stylish flourishes that scream “art film!” even as they add nothing to the story. Several scenes are so badly shot and edited that they make no sense (most notably the embarrassingly chaste sex scenes, which in a film like this should really mean something more than, “This is a sex scene”).
The cast is slightly better, at least making something interesting of the characters. Levine (a beefy Ryan Phillippe type) is quite good in the central role, giving us someone to identify with as he goes through a difficult situation and emerges a different person at the end. But the filmmaking is confusing and under explained, generating some real tension but never really drawing us into the story. Alas! A film with this strong a message shouldn’t feel so pointless.