Sequin in a Blue Room, opens with a game of glances between two people. Finding themselves in a seemingly empty library, their glances confirm they’re there for the same reason. They move closer, until a cough interrupts them—It may as well be a gunshot in its volume and the weight it carries. The moment is fleeting and the anonymous stranger leaves before he is caught. So too is the nature of the hook-up, the first of many for our protagonist in Samuel Van Grinsven’s debut feature. An unabashedly queer erotic thriller Sequin in a Blue Room navigates the tumultuous world of hook-up apps and their increasing influence in discerning our sexual identities.
The film follows Sequin—the in-app alias for an otherwise anonymous high schooler (Conor Leach)—as he delves into the world of hook-up apps and online stalking. Sequin’s experience of sex is emotionless: an anonymous act in which the hook-up is deleted once the door is closed behind him. After attracting the attention of a particularly clingy user, Sequin is invited to the exclusive and somewhat menacing Blue Room—a strictly anonymous, limitless sex party—where a whole new, alluring world unfolds before him. With his curiosity piqued, Sequin soon becomes embroiled in a hunt for an enthralling fellow attendee of the Blue Room, and dives deeper into the psychosexual rabbit hole as he searches for him in the outside world.
Sequin in a Blue Room’s greatest asset is its devotion to character growth, with Conor Leach’s performance being especially brilliant. It was incredibly fascinating watching Sequin’s resolve be tested by the allure of the Blue Room. Coming across initially as someone in control of who they meet, what they do and never getting too close, the Blue Room eventually reveals the cracks in Sequin’s demenor that may have been masked for quite some time. In tandem with Leach’s stellar performance is an ensemble cast of characters that influence Sequin’s story and drive it forward; the supportive, if somewhat oblivious father (Jeremy Lindsay Taylor), the stalker (Ed Wightman), the kindly drag queen (Anthony Brandon Wong) and the school peer harbouring genuine feelings for Sequin (Simon Croker) to name but a few.
A highlight of the film is the on-screen graphics of Sequin’s conversations on “ANON”, the film’s equivalent of Grindr. Often films settle for messages simply overlayed for us to swiftly breeze through the conversations, or clumsily made search engines to avoid copyright infringement. However, recognising that these messages play an integral part of the film’s narrative, we’re presented with an entire interface, complete with on the nose animations as the initial phallic logo morphs seamlessly into the app’s name. These animations, designed by graphics artist Chris Johns, show us what the app is all about and the world in which Sequin is dabbling in. It injects even more authenticity into this already lovingly crafted story. It is a joy to see that Van Grinsven has considered these realist aspects that allow us to empathise with such a contemporary experience. In particular the prevalent influence the internet now has in helping someone explore their sexual identity.
While presented as something akin to a psychological thriller, with Sequin navigating the elusiveness of The Blue Room and its denizens, Sequin in a Blue Room also delivers a poignant critique of our relationship with social media and easy access to sex on demand. What really captured my attention was an understated nuance that made it stand out from the crowd, in an era where every queer film is almost immediately compared to Call Me By Your Name. In place of warm tones and a lavish story about a blossoming romance with often tragic conclusions, we’re instead treated to colder camera work in an intimate look into sexual exploration and hook-up culture that feels very of the moment, in a time where our dating lives are increasingly influenced by our phones.
As a captivating debut for director and lead actor, Sequin in a Blue Room is an assured triumph for both. A tense tale of sexual exploration that embraces the role social media plays in our lives, it is refreshing to see a director take into consideration a generation of queer people whose coming-of-age, and indeed coming out, will have likely been influenced by the internet in some form. Samuel Vam Ginsven’s debut is a considerate and intriguing example of just how to portray a modern approach to sexual discovery, set to the backdrop of a beguiling thriller.
Sequin in a Blue Room is released via Peccadillo Pictures on UK/Ireland digital platforms from 9th April. The film is released in the US & Scandinavia from 17th May.
Words by Jack Roberts
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