Jamie’s 14 years old. We never see him at school, but it’s not much of a stretch to imagine that he uncomfortably stands out from the others in his year. He’s big, physically awkward, immune to the appeal of sport – especially when it comes to participating – and more interested in cookery. And the very fact that we see so little of his backstory says much for the skill and confidence that Corey Sherman has invested in his coming of age/coming out comedy, Big Boys.
Don’t confuse this with the university-set series of the same name on Channel 4. This is a different proposition, with Jamie (Isaac Krasner) and older brother Will (Taj Cross) setting off for a camping weekend in the mountains of California with cousin Allie (Dora Madison) and new boyfriend Dan (David Johnson III). The break gets off to an bumpy start: Jamie is convinced Dan doesn’t like him, Will is more interested in getting to know a pair of teenage girls. But as Jamie finds common ground with Dan, he also discovers feelings he’s never experienced before. And they’re directed at his cousin’s boyfriend.
Sherman’s directorial debut is also based on his own experience as a titular big boy and it shows. On its own, however, that doesn’t automatically make for a film that works, but his flair behind the camera and finger-on-the-pulse script come together in a warm and fresh combination of humour and tenderness with a breath or two of pain. His comedy of awkwardness is well served by the entire cast, but the standout turn comes from Krasner, whose seemingly effortless performance is shot through with sensitivity. Whenever he’s on the screen, a smile is never far away – assuming it’s not already in evidence. You want to give him the biggest of hugs yet there’s always the sense that perhaps he may not actually need it. The ending gives us the answer.
While the focus is very much on the characters, the story unfolds in front of a beautifully photographed landscape, with brilliant sunshine and starry night skies. The finishing touch comes from Will Weisenfeld’s score, a wistful chorus with Beach Boys overtones to accompany Jamie’s secret dreams of being with the object of his affection. When the teenager gets home at the end of the weekend, he discovers one of Dan’s t-shirts in his bag. He doesn’t inhale its aroma – this isn’t Brokeback Mountain and Sherman is too savvy to try reproducing such an indelible ending – but there’s no mistaking the bittersweet tone which just might have you reaching for a tissue.
Comedy | Screened at BFI Flare on 18 and 19 March 2023 | The Film Collaborative | Certificate: tbc | Dir: Corey Sherman | Isaac Krasner, Dora Madison, David Johnson III and Taj Cross.