Fragile and romantic, the well-acted Belgian coming-of-age drama "North Sea Texas" depicts the tentative steps from friendship to love that consume a lonely 14-year-old boy in a small coastal town.
Gay, introverted and neglected by his accordion-playing barfly of a single mom, Pim (Jelle Florizoone) takes comfort in private rituals (drawing, washing himself, dressing up) and a box of collected objects that pertain to his crush: outgoing neighbor boy Gino (Mathias Vergels) who's a few years older.
When the pair's closeness becomes physical, Pim is faced with the unfamiliar terrain of genuine longing, jealousy and secretiveness.
Director Bavo Defurne, in adapting André Sollie's novel, may prefer stylish mood-setting to heavy dramatics, but his interplay of beautifully lit faces — which include Nina Marie Kortekaas as Gino's sister Sabrina — make for plenty of compelling emotional tension.
Though not without its mini-heartbreaks and melancholic turns, "North Sea Texas" explores emergent sexuality and first love with a refreshing optimism. What Pim goes through — self-preservation in an unsettled home, the thrill of desire, navigating hurt feelings — is plenty universal.
"North Sea Texas." No MPAA rating; in Dutch with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes. At Sundance Sunset Cinema, West Hollywood.