Film Review: Closet Monster

Willfully weird tale of a gay youth in a world of confusion. Noisily off-kilter.
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Newfoundland youth Oscar (played by Jack Fulton, and then Connor Jessup) witnesses the marriage of his parents (Joanne Kelly and Aaron Abrams) crumble, and must deal with his father’s resultant abusive anger. This lonely boy lives in a heavily fantasy world and has homosexual yearnings but not much of an outlet for them, although he does have a close friend in the form of a talking hamster (voiced by Isabella Rossellini).

Canadian first-time writer-director Stephen Dunn seems determined to make Closet Monster the gay coming-of-age film for the ages, loading on the angst, bullying, domestic strife and adolescent alienation until you want to scream “Uncle!” It’s interestingly shot with a striking visual sensibility and well-acted overall, but the determined eccentricity of the entire conceit—liberally laced with moments of hallucinatory surrealism—weighs the movie down, creating an airless ambiance at odds with any youthful verve which might appeal to the viewer. Additionally, a droningly irritating music score by Maya Postepski and Todor Kobakov just makes you want to cover your ears. And then there’s that hamster, who sounds and behaves like some kind of very small and furry dowager empress!

Jessup’s disarmingly pretty face holds the camera and his understated, sensitive performance is the best thing here. Abrams practically twirls a Snidely Whiplash moustache as his total a-hole of an insensitive dad. Kelly looks and acts far too young to be a convincing mother of a teen, but Aliocha Schneider is convincingly fetching as the object of Oscar’s confused affection and Sofia Banzhaf shows alterna-chick spunk as Oscar’s best friend.

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