“Coming of age is a theme that has been done, arguably even overdone, in film before. Sublime rises above the crop in this regard because of how everything in it is done in earnest.”
The teenage years are usually when you are at your most adventurous. Whether by trying to get drunk with friends, getting high, or sneaking out to find some action, it remains a period when you are at your most fearless. ‘YOLO!’ as teens would say – You only live once. Try everything, question nothing.
Sixteen-year-old Manuel is your typical teenager. He mostly hangs out with his friends – if not his girlfriend – and plays bass for their small-time band. They hang out at the beach or in the woods, attend class, and play music. It’s very much the average routine for any boy his age, but things start to differ when he begins to feel something more than special for his best friend Felipe.
Manuel’s conflicted feelings are the center of Argentine director Mariano Biasin’s debut feature Sublime, a part of this year’s Generation 14 Plus section at the Berlinale. Coming of age is a theme that has been done, arguably even overdone, in film before. Sublime rises above the crop in this regard because of how everything in it is done in earnest. It makes you feel good without bordering on being cheesy, the conflict comes out naturally, and everything feels wholesome but not soaking in saccharine.
Music plays an integral part in the film. Manuel is stuck thinking of lyrics for a song his band is writing. Music also serves as an avenue for him to channel and try to understand his feelings. In a way, it also represents the ‘confusion’ that his character feels, trying to figure out what is happening to him, acknowledging his feelings exist, and knowing that a full acceptance of said feelings will come with a different set of effects altogether. Manuel knows he is starting to feel something for his best friend and at the same time he is aware that more is involved than acceptance; he knows there are larger stakes if he pushes through with these feelings. Films like Sublime are also make-or-break when it comes down to casting, and fortunately the chemistry between the two main characters produces so much charm that their mere conversations and interactions are not only natural but also palpable. There’s so much that these characters can convey with a simple gaze, a quick stare, even in their quieter moments together.
Sublime is a fitting title for this film, as it doesn’t try to create drama just for the sake of it. There is a certain normalcy that the film projects, and its optimism in considering and acknowledging that a phase like this is normal is what makes the approach most refreshing. The film thrives on its simplicity, going back to a time in one’s life when one is curious and feels like every question should have an answer. Sublime makes a good point in reminding us that is not the case, and that sometimes just going with the flow is the best way forward. And if you’re lucky enough, you can have someone to join you walking that path.