Article Title:Get Real
Author or Credit:Chris Banks
Published on:7th January 2006 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:1070
Text:Review: GET REAL Dir: Simon Shore UK, 1998, 35mm, 108 mins Currently showing on Sky's Rialto Channel Coming out films. The sensitive, intelligent outsider has realised he's gay but can't tell anyone, except his best friend at school – the sassy, fat girl with a heart of gold and an inimitable sense of style who wonders whether it's all just a phase. The school bully calls our hero a queer, our hero's got designs on the hot athlete, the parents have no idea what's going on, and someone's into Doctor Who (this is an English film after all). Yes, coming out films have a formula that's as well worn these days as any Hollywood genre picture. As seen above, Get Real ticks more than a few of the boxes. For the most part, it ticks them quite well thanks to some sensitive and well-rounded performances, particularly from Ben Silverstone as our hero Steven Carter and Charlotte Brittain as Linda, the aforementioned sassy obese friend. Steven's known he was gay since he was 11, and spends quite a bit of time turning tricks down the local public lav. "Where else are we supposed to go?" he asks Linda. He's rather shocked one day when on one of his visits he encounters John Dixon, the school's star athlete and head prefect. Surely he can't be gay? Well, he is. But surely this big hot stud (referred to as "sex on legs" by several salivating schoolgirl characters) can't fall for the spindly, awkward Steven? Inexplicably, he does, and this is the film's biggest problem. While it seems perfectly believable that John would use Steven as a confidante for getting to talk about his feelings, it's a stretch of the imagination to buy that someone like John would find Steven attractive, let alone fall in love with him. They don't have anything in common, and neither seems like each other's type. The old "any port in a storm" argument doesn't really hold water here, at least not enough to suspend your disbelief entirely. Nevertheless, the film does manage to explore with sensitivity how lonely and isolated being gay in a high school environment is. Steven doesn't know anyone like him, except the men he meets down the bog. One who seems to take a particular shine to him turns out to be married with children (does any other type frequent men's toilets for sex?). Steven has no outlet for exploring or talking about his feelings – up until very recently it was forbidden by law for homosexuality to be discussed in sex education classes in Britain. When Steven anonymously submits an article on growing up gay to the school magazine, the principal forbids the student editors from printing it, despite their willingness to do so. As Steven falls deeper in love with John, the initial happiness of being in a real relationship is replaced with frustration at the compromises that have to be made. John is terrified to even be seen speaking to Steven at school, seeing as one of John's mates is the trademark school bully (who despite his singularly unattractive personality, is far cuter than Mr Dixon). One thing's for certain, Steven's not going to put up with any of this lark for more than ninety minutes, and as things work up to the inevitable "I'm gay and I'm proud!" proclamation climax, there is genuine tension. Will Steven out John? Will he get queer-bashed in the process? Or perhaps arrested for shagging in the woods? And is his Dad really going to a Doctor Who convention dressed as a Cyberman? Those of us who were spindly, awkward outsiders at school and fantasised about getting off with the school's star athelete will doubtless identify with Steven. The more cynical amongst us will likely say "as if". But we'll still watch the film. Chris Banks - 7th January 2006    
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