A dark, cruel story of fourteen-year-old Duncan Mudge.
Played sensitively and perspicaciously (yes it’s a long word… look it up) by Emile Hirsch, living in an isolated farming community who is coming to terms with his burgeoning sexuality and self acknowledged weirdness. Such weirdness extends itself to putting a live chicken’s head in his mouth to “calm” it down. However one can’t help but feel a tinge of disturbing sexual awakening within the boy’s character, with this action and it is one that is repeated a number of times during the film.
When his mother dies unexpectedly Mudge has a gentle almost heart warming attachment to his dead mother’s clothing and begins to wear items, much to the quiet and dignified horror of his father (Richard Jenkins), who plays the role with a brilliant distant exasperation, who wants his son to just be normal. We see moments of real restraint from the father as he catches his son in various moments of embarrassing adolescence learning. Normally, in real life, a father might walk in on a son pounding one out (it happened to a friend…), but in the case of the Mudge boy, he walks in on his son wearing his dead Mother’s wedding dress (Awkward.)
Uncomfortable and insular, Duncan finds it hard to mix with the other young characters from the town and is only eventually allowed to join them when he offers money to buy the crowd beer. This is where we are properly introduced to Perry – a big dicked, strapping, out doorsy, sexually aware boy. It’s here in the film where the longing stares begin between the two. A casual glance turns into a knowing longing from Duncan who at one point touches Perry’s arm, and Perry only momentarily pulls away, before joking about how big his muscles are.
The boys’ relationship starts as harmless fun swimming together under a railway bridge to the very disturbing drunken sex scene in which a heedless and forceful Perry f***s Duncan whilst dressed in his mother’s wedding gown. It’s a sex scene that makes Brokeback Mountain’s “Spit and Slip’ look romantic. The audience is forced to sit uncomfortably as we watch Duncan’s first sexual experience indelibly smeared and horrifyingly insouciant, (I’m on a roll with these long words…) but in the very next scene we’re shown that Perry is brutalised by his father, and here the audience has to make the decision to identify with the compliant, docile and abused Duncan or the beaten, confused and abused Perry.
With this massive build up of sexual tension and albeit violent chemistry between the two lead boys it is something of a blue ball moment, when the film abruptly ends with no climax or release. Well, there is a moment, but it’s a spoiler… Ah okay, he bites the head off the chicken. But we saw that coming didn’t we? Was it an adolescent attempt at finding some resolve between the two leads?
The film could quite undeniably have ventured further into the story. How do the two characters resolve? Do they fall in love? Does Perry kill Duncan? Does Duncan go bat sh** crazy and kill the town? We’ll never know. The audience begs for a finale, a conclusion, but never gets one. Looking at my fellow audience I notice a furled eyebrow, a questioning look and a dispassionate shrug of the shoulders which buries this film, unfortunately, into the files of ‘Never to watch again’