Darko Stante’s debut feature film offers a tough 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. Although carrying themes associated with coming of age and sexuality, Stante weaves a far more nuanced exploration of young people living on the verges of society. Where behaviour criminal activity and rebellion are wrapped into a haze of alcohol, drugs and experimentation as moral codes are tested.
There are times where the designated audience for Consequences is not fully clear, alongside moments where the narrative falls into the stereotyped territory of many other youth crime dramas. Yet despite these flaws, Stante does build an engaging narritive with enough social commentary to keep the viewers attention.
Andrej (Matej Zemljic) is an 18 year old lost in a spiralling social life of peer pressure, alcohol fuelled parties and self-isolation. After a party where his masculinity is challenged and questioned by girl, Andrej’s behaviour becomes more volatile as he struggles with his inner demons and need to escape his peer confines. His behaviour ultimately leading to a court order to attend 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 while removing their responsibility for managing his behaviour and distance in the home. 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 caveats blooms with Zele and Niko. Andrej begins to explore his own boundaries and masculinity, with social outcomes that lead 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 too heavily to stereotypes, not allowing the audience to fully build a deep or emotional connection to the young men sitting at the heart of the story.
Consequences carries a clear social commentary in exploring the masculinity and belonging of the ‘gang’. Its peer support structure replacing that which is missing from the individual, while also creating its own hidden world of secrets, rules and boundaries. When combined with the films 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.
There are also interesting themes at play on family, state and rehabilitation. Consequences clearly asking important questions on the when its right for the state to step in, and the effect poor intervention has on allowing further indoctrination into a life of crime. However, this is a film that never truly 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 bravery in reflecting the stark choices of socially excluded young men, who often seek the peer support of others who are merely a mirror to their own problems.