Sequin in a Blue Room, a searing and sexually-charged Australian thriller, is a stunning feature debut from writer/director Samuel Van Grinsven. The film hones in on a particular subset of gay hookup culture, and the Sydney setting provides specificity and unique flavor to its coming-of-age explorations. Led by a stunning turn from Conor Leach and eye-popping visuals, Sequin in a Blue Room joins gay-thriller greats like My Own Private Idaho, Mysterious Skin and Closet Monster.
Sequin (Conor Leach) is an angsty high school teen fully immersed in the world of phone app Anon, a Grindr stand-in. Whether at school or at home, he falls down a rabbit hole and seeks instant gratification for his desires. Sequin sees a cute boy from school while waiting for the subway, and it seems that Tommy (Simon Crocker) might be interested. Sequin favors anonymous sex with a creepy 45-year-old daddy over something that could blossom into a relationship.
This time, the Anon hookup doesn’t quite go the way Sequin hopes. B (Ed Wightman) begs for a second date, but Sequin tells him “I don’t really do that.” He blocks B on Anon and keeps it moving. Soon, Sequin gets a mysterious message from The Blue Room, a completely anonymous sex party. The prospect seems immediately appealing to Sequin. He locks lips with a gorgeous dark-skinned stranger, Edward (Samuel Barrie), even as his old hookup B makes a stalker-adjacent reappearance. After this first party, Sequin has trouble contacting The Blue Room again. Sequin becomes fixated on tracking down Edward no matter the cost, with the looming threat of B’s pursuit seeping the film in dread and suspense.
From the opening credits alone, Sequin in a Blue Room exudes eroticism and desire. Sequin reads the pages of a pornographic comic book as if he’s a phone sex operator. The explicit gay sex sequences add authenticity and realism, as Sequin catapults from one apartment to the next. The way this is filmed sets it apart, relishing in the hypnotic imagery. These include creepy hallways with blue lighting and flowing, shimmery, see-through curtains. Only the mysterious, melodic score hammers over the entire party sequence. Any communication is told strictly through subtitles during this segment. This adds a weirdly beautiful mysticism. A mutual-masturbation split-screen forms a closeness to two characters—it shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does, but this remained one of my favorite scenes in the entire film.
Messages and text displayed onscreen are organic and feel real, especially important given how Anon ties into the narrative. Once we get into the thriller aspect, I was riveted and intrigued at where the impressive script from Jory Anast and Samuel Van Grinsven would take us next.
Keeping the perspective strictly Sequin’s, which allows the ensemble cast to mold Sequin and his motivations into a believable flawed character, is executed brilliantly. Conor Leach’s grounded and complex performance as Sequin shines—my eyes were drawn to him every second he was onscreen. There’s a rawness to his portrayal that really stood out, especially in the crackling nature of Sequin’s personality.
Sequin in a Blue Room is a gripping thriller, then a sweeping romance, a bold character study, and a commentary on the distance of social media hookups. It is hot, dark, dramatic and thrilling. One thing is certain: it’s one of the best gay movies I’ve watched so far this year.
Sequin in a Blue Room is out on VOD in the U.S. on May 18.