Hidden Kisses (2016)
“It takes courage not to lie to yourself. To meet the eyes of others.”
Synopsis: Nathan is 15 years old when a photo of him kissing another boy shows up online, and it causes quite a stir. Nathan’s dad finds out and deals with his son’s coming out in his own way. Likewise, another boy deals with his own feelings that lead to even more difficulties for himself.
The most striking theme in this film is homophobia and its endless obstacles. The most obvious that we can surmise just from the synopsis is the homophobia from Nathan’s peers. This unfortunately takes multiple forms from teasing to violence. Even Nathan’s father, who is a single dad, has some serious issues in coming to terms with Nathan being gay. In many instances he is not supportive. All of this serves to isolate Nathan and make him feel very alone.
There are teachers at Nathan’s school who recognize what is going on, and initially one would make incorrect guesses about their motives for helping or not. One of the most touching scenes in the whole film is when a teacher takes a stand in defense of Nathan. Some reviewers have mentioned the unbelievability of a school allowing the bullying against Nathan to go on under their noses, and I would agree that it seems exaggerated. But the theme of the film is in reaction to the excessive homophobia, and that creates the emotional turbulence that I believe the filmmakers wanted us to have watching it.
There is the other mysterious boy in the photo, but that mystery doesn’t last for long as he becomes a focus of the story. This part of the narrative puts an icy spotlight on how homophobia can affect someone from internalized shame to being disowned by one’s own family.
An interesting note that homophobia, bullying, and emotional abuse are all put into parallel points in this story leading to a generic comparison. Each of these things often creates isolation for their victims, and the LGBT ones are not the only casualties in this story. What seems to be a common cure is support from others and/or one caustic moment (or perhaps a succession of small ones) that seems to generate the courage to change the course.
Speaking of courage, one motif in Hidden Kisses is that sometimes it takes courage to be true to yourself and to stand up against bullies. Sometimes those courageous people are straight people, but many times an LGBT person stands up for another. Queer people don’t have the same fights that existed 20 years ago, but there are still confrontations to be had. “Words have meaning. They can be violent.” We still need to stand up for one another.
In Hidden Kisses, we see the results of how different parents react to their children coming out, and we also see the many ramifications of those choices. In this day and age, a longstanding, homophobic dispute between parents and children seems unconscionable. But its not unreal. However, the consequences are.
I liked the themes that this film explores, and the acting and production were well done. There were some unrounded corners though with an example being some abruptness in the story progression. I would also classify the ending as unexpectedly sudden which didn’t feel quite right. It definitely doesn’t leave you with the same feeling as a film like Beautiful Thing. But I wouldn’t let that aspect keep you from the film that is still relevant and speaking to us.