Coming of age is never an easy process. If it were, it wouldn’t be such ripe territory for storytelling. Whether scurrying down the halls of an Irish boarding school, discovery sex in the French countryside or having a throwback dance session, these selections will take you back.
Despite its predictability, writer/director John Butler’s Handsome Devil (Breaking Glass Pictures) scores with unabashed charm and solid performances.
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Set at an all-boys boarding school where rugby reigns, bookish gay ginger Ned (Fionn O’Shea) plots to get expelled to avoid his chief tormentor, Weasel (Ruairi O’Connor).
Though Ned doesn’t realize it, the arrival of a new English teacher and new roommate Conor (Nicholas Galitzine) will have a profound impact on his plans, as Mr. Sherry gets the unruly lads under control and Conor shatters all of Ned’s preconceived notions about gorgeous jocks.
Additionally, the 1980s Britpop soundtrack, featuring The Housemartins, Prefab Sprout, Blur and others, deserves mention.
Part of the “First Look” series, bullies also dominate Édouard Louis’ novel The End of Eddy (FSG, 2017), translated from the original French by Michael Lucey. The titular character and narrator, middle school student Eddy, is bullied by his parents, siblings, classmates and the small town’s residents, too.
In a family and community where “tough guys” and getting drunk are valued and education and refinement are frowned upon, Eddy learns how to survive his home and his peers. Avoiding anything that seems even a little “gay,” Eddy uses homophobic slurs against his very tormentors. When he does finally get the opportunity to explore his own sexuality, the effect is immediate and everlasting. Eddy’s pleasure may be short-lived, but it opens options for him he hadn’t considered before.
Marc Almond probably didn’t realize it, but as one half of the UK new wave duo Soft Cell, he would go on to record and release one of the seminal songs of the era: the dazzling cover of Ed Cobb’s “Tainted Love.” As an unapologetically gay man performing in the early 1980s, he paved the way for Pet Shop Boys, Erasure and others.
The double-disc version of Hits and Pieces: The Best of Marc Almond and Soft Cell (UMe) isn’t the first Soft Cell compilation, but it is the first to share some of Almond’s considerable solo catalog.
Classic duets such as Almond and Bronski Beat’s reverent reading of “I Feel Love” and a pairing with the late 1960s legend Gene Pitney on “Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart,” are wonderful additions.
As for Soft Cell songs, fans will be delighted with the inclusion of the original 12" version of “Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go?”, along with “Memorabilia,” “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye” and “Bedsitter.” But excluding “Sex Dwarf” is inexcusable.