Even with all the current teen movie releases, few coming-of-age films – character-based stories where the actual, painful realities of growing up are examined instead of focusing on who’s taking who to the prom – get made anymore.
When a coming-of-age movie does appear, it’s often also a coming-out story like Get Real, a frank and richly nuanced British film from screenwriter Patrick Wilde (based on his play What’s Wrong With Angry?) and director Simon Shore.
Even though he lives in a comfortable, semirural suburb and attends a blue-blazer coed private school, 16-year-old Steven Carter (Ben Silverstone) doesn’t see his surroundings as being all that cozy. A smart kid who’s seen as being somehow "different," Steve has known for years that he’s gay, but hasn’t told anyone except his next-door neighbor, Linda (Charlotte Brittain), a flashy, boisterous, overweight teen who understands his outsider status.
Steve has long suspected that he’s not the only gay student at school, but to his utter astonishment, he finds himself in a relationship with the school’s golden boy, John Dixon (Brad Gorton), a handsome star athlete and immensely popular Oxford-bound senior with a model girlfriend.
Although Get Real shares several aspects with another British film, Beautiful Thing (1996), there’s a major difference. Beautiful Thing was set in an urban, working-class environment where everyone felt like outsiders in the new, prosperous Britain. Get Real puts the same situation in the world of the privileged, and that sense of entitlement makes all the difference.
As John’s relationship with Steve goes from "curiosity" to love, they reach a crucial impasse. Steve wants to come out, which utterly panics John, who bears the great expectations of his parents and peers on his shoulders.
Get Real, whose low-key approach and superb acting keep events from sliding into melodrama, proves that even in our anything-goes era, conformity and social expectations still carry immense weight. Here, individual defiance means confronting a collective fear that if anyone were to pierce the carefully maintained bubble of normalcy, it might actually burst.
Serena Donadoni writes about film for the Metro Times. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.