‘Sequin In A Blue Room’ Is The Teenage Grindr Thriller That’s As Sweet As It Is Scary
Sequin In A Blue Room, a queer thriller about a 16-year-old boy who finds himself in a lot of trouble thanks to a serious hook-up app addiction, might seem a little unrealistic — if you’ve never spent time on Grindr.
“I just think we need to tell a creative coming of age story that’s more current and more believable to the experiences of the queer community I have around me,” Sequin director Samuel Van Grinsven tells me.
And while the 26-year-old has (as far as we know) never fallen into a dangerous game of back-and-forth blackmail with a hook-up, Grinsven wanted to acknowledge an oft-ignored truth: that many nascent sexual experiences for queers happen underage, through apps, and usually with overage men.
Call Me By Your Name‘s sinewy summer it’s often not. More realistic is Troye Sivan’s ‘Seventeen’, a song where Sivan looks back at his first sexual encounter with mixed emotions of tenderness and confusion. He’s not alone — it inspired a set of similar stories (including from this writer) to be shared on Out Magazine.
Sequin… is, impressively, Grinsven’s directorial debut, made on a tiny budget. Co-written by Grinsven and Jory Anast, it was first made as his graduate project for AFTRS, then finessed further with a Queer Screen grant before making its premiere at Sydney Film Festival, where it then won the Audience pick for Best Feature. Since then, it’s made its way to LA for Outfest, and is currently screening at MIFF.
He tells me the blue room — a huge apartment turned into an anonymous sex party which Sequin (Conor Leach) is invited to via an app — was the first image he and Anast had for the film. It’s a shorthand for adolescent queer experiences; near-mystical and otherworldly, vaguely menacing, potentially freeing.
Sequin? I Hardly Even Know Her!
Sequin In A Blue Room follows Sequin’s sexual adventures on a Grindr-esque app called Anon. He lives in Sydney with his caring but very hands-off dad, often disappearing at night without any need for explanation.
There’s a flirtation with one of his dorky classmates, but Sequin (named after the crop top he wears to each encounter) is more interested in the app, and what it holds. He’s having a lot of sex — I ask Grinsven why Sequin’s so obsessed, and he laughs.
“I don’t know if it’s that [he’s obsessed],” he says. “He’s exploring his sexuality — he’s really coming to terms with his personality and his life in the queer community. I think he’s really drawn into the mystery — it’s equally about sexual experiences as discovering other people’s lives and how queer men live.”
The allure of Anon is clear to anyone who’s lost hours swiping or tapping — even a short conversation can be enough to sate the curiosity or need for validation, though Sequin’s always one to go through with things.
Each experience is a moment of connection and instant detachment, as Sequin refuses to see anyone more than once — a big part of Sequin…‘s success is capturing that need to continually move on through the allure of Anon, which pops up in a clean display on-screen. Sleek and seductive, it’s a far cry from the jankiness of Grindr — and from the usual cringe-inducing apps and social media rip-offs we see in film or tv.
“We wanted to create something that certainly had connections to those real-world apps,” Grinsven says. “But [it’s also] somewhere more in the thriller genre of the film. Once we decided that it really influenced the way that the colour scheme it used, the sort of speed at which the text appears and disappears and even the rules of the app… [it all adds] this extra element of mystery and rules of uniformity in the way that everyone presents themselves [online].”
Despite being filmed in Sydney, Sequin…‘s cityscape is unrecognisable, bleached of colour and character — like Anon, it’s just a playground for Sequin to do what he likes. As are the people he meets, fixations and dangerous obsessions are sustained by a glance. Which means, yes, Sequin‘s plot is admittedly a bit silly — but so are our teenage desires, which, when acted upon, sit somewhere between sweet and scary.
Sequin In A Blue Room screens at MIFF 2019 on Wednesday 14 and Friday 16 August.
Jared Richards is a staff writer at Junkee, and co-host of Sleepless In Sydney on FBi Radio. Follow him on Twitter.