Rarely are teen narratives are met with the ingenuity and inventiveness of Stephen Dunn’s Closet Monster – even rarer within specifically queer ones. Even solid recent examples (like this weekend’s The Edge of Seventeen) tend to be straightforward affairs, more often than not becoming bland in presentation. That lack in imagination bleeds over into character development, narrative point of view, and conflict resolution in ways that undermine the value of their own subject. Thankfully this is not the case with the ambitious Closet Monster.
Dunn’s take is a coming out narrative you’ve certainly seen before with a few inclusions that make the film spark with personality and uniqueness. Oscar (Connor Jessup) lives with his father (Aaron Abrams) under the umbrella of toxic masculinity as he prepares for college and hides out as a loner. While the familiar story beats of divorce and virginity pop up, the real sparkle comes from side diversions like Oscar’s horror makeup dreams and his spirit animal / imaginary friend relationship with his hamster (voiced by Isabella Rossellini). Oscar’s trauma isn’t limited to standard bullying tropes and a macho father, but the fatal gaybashing he witnessed in youth manifests in both his self-worth and sexual anxiety. This isn’t starting to sound so familiar, is it?