The Dependent Variables (2022). Director: Lorenzo Tardella. Italy.
Memories of our first crush at school or our first kiss burn themselves into our minds as the world of sex and love opens up before us. But these experiences are also confusing, scary and uncertain, especially for lesbian, gay and bisexual teens who struggle to guess someone’s sexual interest as they navigate the first throws of desire. Lorenzo Tardella’s exquisite short film The Dependent Variables (Le variabili dipendenti) beautifully explores these themes as we join Pietro and Tommaso on a school trip about to become a rite of passage for both boys.
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While watching The Dependent Variables, a memory from my own teenage years came flooding back; the memory was a school trip when I was fourteen to a classical concert, I already knew I liked boys and had no sexual interest in girls, but I was also fearful of letting these feelings out. On the bus to the concert, I sat next to a boy from a different school; I knew there was a spark of energy between us as he looked at me when he thought I was looking away, and I did the same to him. This dance continued for the whole journey, both of us eager but nervous about committing to our shared attraction. As the bus pulled up at the concert venue, he pressed his knee to mine, and the spark took my breath away. I quickly planned to sit next to him at the concert, but our seats were allotted, and my heart sank; I would have to wait for the journey home and hope nobody was sitting next to him. Unfortunately, the seat next to him was taken, and I knew the moment had passed into a mere memory of what could have been.
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Young Pietro (Simone Evangelista) is on a school trip to the theatre as The Dependent Variables opens, but the theatrical experience is the last thing on his mind. Pietro has a crush on Tommaso (Mattia Rega), an energetic and charismatic boy who is always in trouble. When they end up in the same balcony box, Pietro can’t take his eyes off the boy beside him. Tommaso is fully aware of Pietro’s longing glances and responds playfully by meeting Pietro’s gaze. As they stare at each other, Pietro takes his opportunity and kisses Tommaso, a brief yet explosive peck on the lips that opens up a new world of possibilities. But is Tommaso interested in Pietro?
Wrapped in the authentic performances of Rega and Evangelista, Tardella’s short film is delicate, beautiful and honest, providing a snapshot of two boys searching for belonging, love and companionship; one confident in his desire and the other unsure of his feelings. Tardella explores themes of maturity and confidence in a stunning coming-of-age story that captures the joy, uncertainty, longing and passion of a gentle and tentative sexual awakening.
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Tardella’s short film is delicate, beautiful and honest, providing a snapshot of two boys searching for belonging, love and companionship; one confident in his desire and the other unsure of his feelings.