Monday, July 26, 2010

Whole New Thing (2005)

I watched a very interesting film last night that I had never heard of before: Whole New Thing, 2005, Canadian. It was directed by Amnon Buchbinder, who hasn't done any directing work since, unless he works under a different name, for which I don't think anyone could blame him. Apparently, it has won several awards. Plus the soundtrack, featuring three songs by The Hidden Cameras, a band previously unknown to me and I'm sure, to most of the world, is quite interesting (We Oh We, I Believe in the Good LifeBuilds the Bone).

The main theme of the film is the relationship of 13-year-old Emerson with this new English teacher, Mr Grant, followed by the relationship of Emerson with his parents, followed by the relationship of Emerson's parents to each other, followed by Emerson's sexual awakening, followed by the relationship of Emerson with his new fellow students.

Emerson had an unconventional upbringing. He's an only child, home schooled by his mother. The house they live in was designed by his mother and built by his father, who is now working on inventing a system that will turn human excrement into fertilizer and energy. When Emerson, who is very clever and has already written a book, shows a lack of interest in math, his mother decides to send him to the local middle school. There, Emerson who not only is different, but also looks it, gets bullied by the boys in his class who label him 'queer'. Luckily, he finds support in Mr Grant, a lonely individual who regularly picks up men in public toilets. Emerson challenges Mr Grant's choice of teaching Snowboard Snowjob (which I have no proof it actually exists but kudos to whoever came up with the title) and urges him to switch to Shakespeare and inspires him to be a better teacher. As his parents are going through a rough patch that leads to Kaya, the mother, start an affair, Emerson develops a crush on Mr Grant which he very forwardly expresses. Mr Grant is trying to discourage him without hurting his feelings but Emerson doesn't take rejection very well and follows Mr Grant to the infamous public toilets. Furious and hurt at what he sees, when Mr Grant comes out of the public toilets, Emerson confronts him and in the height of emotion jumps into the car of a stranger who mistakes him for a rentboy. They end up in the office of the stranger, who has a routine he likes to keep when picking up boys. Emerson goes along with it until he is asked to take his pants off. He freaks out and locks himself in the bathroom. The stranger is getting really impatient and finally Emerson explains to him that he hasn't done this before, that he is 13 and that he wants to leave. By now night has fallen and Mr Grant is still outside the public toilets waiting for Emerson to come back. Finally Emerson returns and as soon as he's in the car, breaks into tears. Together, they drive to Mr Grant's former lover's, Claude, where Emerson's parents (who have sorted out their marital issues by now) are waiting for them. Emerson falls asleep in his parents' arms and Mr Grant seems to be getting back with Claude.

This is the type of film that I suspect dear old José Arroyo would sneak into his curriculum. It's Canadian, it qualifies as a 'gay interest' film and could generate many a discussion about gender representation and sexuality. But don't let that deter you from watching it. It's a good film, thoroughly enjoyable and funny; it's different, well shot, well acted and it definitely deserves to be seen.

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