Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Sublime exists somewhere in that special corner of adolescence, on the cusp of falling down the rabbit hole of one’s first love. What happens when those feelings that start to invade one’s brain aren’t for one’s girlfriend, but a member of the same sex—a close friend, to be exact? Sublime posits that these thoughts are perfectly normal. There is no gay bashing here, nor the customary disgust at a straight bestie discovering their pal is attracted to them. This film felt refreshing to me in more ways than one, as being gay is only one aspect to Manuel’s personality and not the whole enchilada. Powered by the energy of live music performances and tender intimacy, Sublime is a beautiful and meaningful little indie surprise.

Manuel (Martin Miller), or Manu as his friends call him, is a relatively normal 16-year-old with braces, whose room is adorned with Pink Floyd posters. Manu plays bass in a band that can’t decide on a name, beyond the moniker of exes. He grows very close to Felipe (Teo Inama Chiabrando), his best friend since childhood, as the two bond over girl troubles, band practice, lyric writing, and “magic.” Manu, who is dating a sweet girl named Azul (Azul Mazzeo), begins to realize his feelings may lie elsewhere. Every time the couple is close to their big “first time,” Manu essentially gets cold feet. He cannot stop thinking about Felipe, to the extent that the boy invades his dreams.

The intimacy of these dreams is touching. Writer/director Mariano Biasin plays up the chemistry between these two young actors—more than anything else, the longing Manu feels is tangible. Felipe gently strokes Manu’s face and their eyes meet. Manu gets so close to actually kissing Felipe; he wakes up just before their lips touch, and the sexual attraction bleeds into Manu’s everyday life. Filmed in Argentina, the beauty of the coming-of-age story is accentuated by equally stunning locales. One of the film’s best shots is a simple one: Manu and Felipe on the beach together, with a rainbow formed off in the distance.

For audience members hoping for an explicit, hyper-sexualized experience, look elsewhere. Sublime is interested in exploring Manu as he discovers his identity, both sexual and otherwise. There is a sweet innocence to it as well, and the music washes over the viewer with pointed sentiment in between Manu’s dreams and daily living. The music sets Sublime apart from similar movies, and it gives Manu a distinct sense of purpose. One part, where Felipe describes the way a guitar makes one part tense and the other relaxed as a “sexual act,” even injects a homoerotic subtext into the performances. Between the stellar acting and a beautiful conclusion, Sublime easily earns its LGBT+ cred with staying power.

Sublime screened at the 2022 Berlinale International Film Festival.

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