Darko Stante’s debut feature film offers a fierce exploration of repressed sexuality, masculinity, and peer influence. In a confident and assured film offering a rare exploration of youth culture, sexuality, and crime in Slovenia. While carrying strong themes often found in the ‘coming of age’ genre dovetailed with newly emerging sexuality. Stante weaves a far more nuanced exploration of young people living on the verges of society. Where behaviour criminality and rebellion are wrapped in a haze of alcohol, drugs and experimentation as moral codes are tested.
There are times where the designated audience for Consequences is not entirely clear. Alongside moments where the narrative falls into the stereotyped territory of many other youth crime dramas. Yet despite these flaws, Stante builds an engaging story with enough social commentary to keep the viewer’s attention.
Andrej (Matej Zemljic) is an 18-year-old lost in a spiralling social life of peer pressure, alcohol and self-isolation. After a party where his masculinity is challenged and questioned by a girl. Andrej’s behaviour becomes more volatile as he struggles with his inner demons and the need to escape his peer confines. His behaviour ultimately leading to a court order and correctional institute for young men with behavioural problems.
Andrej’s parents appear to take relief from the ability of the institute to cure their son. At the same time, shielding them from their responsibilities in managing his behaviour. However, the ineffectual and lacklustre environment of the institute only further encourages Andrej’s risk-taking and self-exploration, as he meets Zele (Timon Sturbej) and Niko (Gasper Markun). Two young men who appear to rule the institute through fear, control and violence.
As a friendship of convenience and acceptance with unspoken caveats blooms with Zele and Niko. Andrej begins to explore his boundaries and masculinity. The social outcomes only leading to further consequences for all those involved.
Consequences offers solid performances throughout, particularly from its young male leads. All of whom balance the anger, isolation, and discovery of teenage life. With the toxic masculinity of peer influence, gangs and crime. However, at times these performances play heavily on classic stereotypes. Not allowing the audience to fully build a deep or emotional connection to the young men sitting at the heart of the story.
There is, however, a clear social commentary exploring the masculinity and belonging of the ‘gang’. Its support structure replacing that which is missing from the individual. While also creating its own hidden world of secrets, rules and boundaries. And when combined with the film’s themes of sexuality and identity. Stante manages to wrap sexual awakening, crime and belonging into a world of dangerous power play, position and peer authority.
Dig deeper, and there are also interesting themes at play on family, state and rehabilitation. With Consequences asking essential questions on the when its right for the state to step in. Including the effect, the unchallenged intervention of poor service has on allowing the further indoctrination into a life of crime. However, this is a film that never fully embraces its potential to talk to these burning social questions, as it struggles to define its core audience.
While sometimes playing to easy stereotypes in its narrative. Consequences is an assured debut feature, which is not afraid to explore the complexity of young male identity and belonging. There are no easy answers here, and its ending may leave you feeling hollow. However, there is a bravery in reflecting the stark choices of socially excluded young men. Many of whom seek the peer support of others who are merely a mirror to their problems.
Director: Darko Stante