A coming-of-age story of isolation and punishment emerges in Consequences, a bleak new Slovenian film from feature debut director Darko Štante. Drawing on his own history assisting in a youth detention center, the film follows Matej Zemljic as Andrej, a teenager sent to a correctional facility due to his violent behavior. Though initially the target of his fellow inmates aggression, he quickly assimilates into their crew and finds an outlet for his fury in their macho community. But the slow revelation that Andrej is also secretly gay complicates his standing within the group in unexpected ways.
One of the struggles the film seldom overcomes is to get inside the head of Andrej. Zemljic plays him with emotional rawness and Štante’s camera hovers invasively, but don’t particularly illuminate Andrej’s inner life. He argues with his parents and sublimates his anger with a need to belong, and it all reads like a garden variety teenager. It remains unclear if the film wishes to paint him as typical for sake of heteronormalizing his queerness (a grave mistake, if so) or because of the film’s lack of ambition to dive deeper.
There is a certain lack of substantive emotional intuitiveness and human curiosity for gay identity at play here. The sexual politics of the film coast on the cliched assumption that all angry young men are simply harboring suppressed homosexual urges. Consequences is more interesting for how Andrej’s sexuality is manipulated and ultimately exploited by his closest confidant Zele (Timon Šturbej). In some small ways, their relationship hints at an unspoken ecosystem of young adult criminal activity that uses sexual identity to create their own gophers.
There is a precision, an almost cruel, compositionally staunch hand that Štante shows in abundance here that suggests a promising future for the filmmaker. The film can’t be faulted for assuredness in delivering exactly the tough trajectory it sets to achieve, playing out with at least a formidable confidence. But the lack of depth to the characterizations keep Consequences from affecting its audience beyond surface concerns. Štante instead proves visually instinctive, nimble at capturing performance if not enriching them first.
The way the film The film takes us to exhaustion with its the perched menace and potential for catastrophe. But as Andrej continues to crumble, its relentless grimness ultimately serves little function other than to exploit Andrej further. Even the correctional facility he is assigned to provides little more than circumstantial set dressing, with the boys ability to get away with even more misbehavior under confinement receiving little examination.
Without much to really elaborate on the context of this particular gay experience beyond the situational, Consequences falls flat as both a gay narrative and a teen melodrama. The film’s righteousness of how the system fails Andrej and the despair over how he fails to help himself is well-intentioned, but it confuses that as enough to sustain its slim narrative. Ultimately, as the film’s conclusion brings all pain and no larger personal or political shading, it becomes something you wish had more to offer.