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Sublime: A First Gig and a First Love for a Shy Argentinian Teen

Photo: Cinephobia.

Manuel and Felipe have known each other since they were children and now, at 16, their close and easy friendship becomes even more charged when they start up a rock band, Manuel on bass and Felipe on guitar. Spending hours and hours in close proximity and a sharing a creative passion has its impact on their relationship as it evolves from boyhood to adolescence to their mutual coming of age and interest in sex. The tensions between the music they love and the girls they know become central to the conflicts explored in the new Argentinian LGBTQIA+ drama Sublime, the feature length debut of writer/director Mariano Biasin.

Martín Miller as Manuel in Sublime, wearing a fleece-lined denim jacket.
Martín Miller as Manuel in Sublime. Photo: courtesy Cinephobia.

Essentially a character study of its lead Manuel (Martín Miller), Sublime finds beauty in the sundry, everyday lives of the teens who populate his world. A quiet, introverted, intelligent boy—following the paradigm of the recalcitrant bassist—Manuel finds his feelings begin to stir as his and his friends’ band practices, improves, and gains the notice of several neighborhood girls. One of whom is attracted to Felipe (Teo Inama Chiabrando), who seems to revel in the attention, and another who is attracted to Manuel, who seems uneasy with intimacy.

Teo Inama Chiabrando as Felipe, wearing a t-shirt.
Teo Inama Chiabrando as Felipe. Photo: courtesy Cinephobia.

Their apparent feelings towards girls are not the only contrast between the two. Where Manuel is quiet and contemplative, Felipe is a bit more boisterous, more extroverted, and as the band’s guitarist, willing to take the stage for a solo or commit himself to making a simple riff into a complete song. Those are all traits Manuel lacks—and likes—and over time, he finds himself fantasizing about being intimate with Felipe, even if he’s given no overt signal of his friend’s interest “in that way.”

And so, the two practice and play together, their work on Felipe’s riff-cum-song bonding them more closely than ever before. The riff—which to my ear sounds a lot like The Cure’s lilting “Boys Don’t Cry,” not that there’s anything wrong with that!—needs lyrics from Manuel to complete its verses. Playing and writing eyeball-to-eyeball adds a sexual charge to the two boys’ interaction that seems at first apparent only to Manuel.

Manuel and Feipe play music together.
Photo: courtesy Cinephobia.

Sublime is a film of quiet moments, not harsh conflicts. There are no tears (after all, as they used to say, “Boys Don’t Cry”), no fights, no disasters, no extreme moments of shame or embarrassment. Martin, in his first film role, adroitly conveys Manuel’s confusions and fears with a naturalistic, low-key demeanor that avoids melodrama as he retreats into himself before his feelings reach their peak. Biasin’s script and direction hew to a quiet, contemplative pace, picking up energy when the band practices their rudimentary if affecting garage rock and Manuel fantasizes about becoming intimate with Felipe.

Don’t expect didacticism, either: Sublime seems to have no agenda other than to tell the story of a teen boy whose first real crush is on his best friend. And that it does exceptionally well, with nuanced performances, naturalistic cinematography and direction, and a script that fleshes out its two lead characters with subtlety and affection. There are references to sexual intimacy, if no direct depictions of them, making Sublime a film that will resonate with viewers of many ages open to an earnest, compelling, and affecting treatment of a young boy’s first love.

Manuel and Felipe on a beach, a rainbow behind them.
Photo: courtesy Cinephobia.

Having made its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, Sublime continued showing at queer film festivals worldwide, including BFI Flare, Outfest, Rainbow Reel Tokyo and AFI Latin American Film Festival. Among its honors are the Sebastiane Latino Award at the San Sebastian International Film Festival and the Grand Jury Prize in the Ibero-American Competition at the Seattle International Film Festival.

Sublime will be available across North America starting June 20 on Cable and Digital VOD, including Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play and Vudu. A DVD will be available with a number of bonus features, including …

  • Interview with Mariano Biaisin•
  • Audio Commentary with Mariano Biaisin & Martín Miller
  • Stills & Behind-the-Scenes Photo Reel
  • 3 Music Videos
  • The Making of Sublime Featurette
  • Cinephobia Releasing Trailers: Amor Bandido, Fireworks, The Latent Image, Lie with Me

Written by J Paul Johnson

J Paul Johnson is Publisher of Film Obsessive. A professor emeritus of film studies and an avid cinephile, collector, and curator, his interests range from classical Hollywood melodrama and genre films to world and independent cinemas and documentary.

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