Directed by: Eva Husson.
Written by: Eva Husson.
Starring: Finnegan Oldfield (Alex), Marilyn Lima (George), Lorenzo Lefèbvre (Gabriel), Daisy Broom (Laetitia), Fred Hotier (Nikita).
Teenagers have sex. As adults, we know this already – hell, we were teenagers, and even if we weren’t having sex when we were teenagers, we wanted to. Movies are not particularly good at showing teenagers and sex, without either romanticizing or demonizing it. We either get the impossibly high romantic standards of a Twilight movie – which makes the two main characters wait almost four movies before they get to have sex, and which point it is earth shattering (almost literally), or we get movies that decry the casual sex teenagers have, which usually ends with STI’s, pregnancy, abortions and trauma- lives ruined, essentially. If it’s a horror movie, and you’re a teenager who has sex, you’re screwed.
The interesting thing about Eva Husson’s Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story) is that it follows the second set of teenage movie clichés – casual sex, leading to STIs, pregnancy and abortion, etc. – but does so without the trauma and lives ruined. This isn’t an updated version of Larry Clark’s Kids – where AIDS moves through a group of teenagers, all of whom are screwing each other, and there’s rape and violence, etc. It is a film about a group of bored, upper middle class teenagers, all of whom have sex with each other at giant parties they call Bang Gangs, but in the end, no one’s life is ruined and no one even seems all that traumatized – except for maybe the parents. All that happened is just something that happened – some of them learn from it, and are able to move onto something more mature and real – something akin to love perhaps – and some cannot. The film doesn’t judge or moralize – it does turn anyone into victims and those who victimize them. It just is. That’s both the strength of the movie, and ultimately, it’s limitation.
The film has a large cast of young people – but focuses on just a few of them. Alex (Finnegan Oldfield) lives alone in a large house – his parents are divorced, his father isn’t around, and his mother is on a 9 month trip to Morocco. He and his best friend Nikita (Fred Hotier) use his place for parties – and to bring girls around. The first two of these girls are best friends George (Marilyn Lima) and Laetitia (Daisy Broom). George actually likes Alex, and has sex with him one afternoon and Laetitia and Nikita look on – but for Alex, George is just another conquest, and once it’s over, so are they. When Laetitia also sleeps with Alex, George is upset – and starts to plan on how to get his attention back. By this point, Alex and Nikita’s parties have become pretty much full on orgies – with teenagers having sex all over the place. In her quest for attention and revenge, George does probably the most extreme thing of any of the teenagers. Then there is the introverted Gabriel – Laetitia’s neighbor, who doesn’t attend the parties, but is slowly drawn to George – and her to him.
The movie certainly doesn’t condone what the teenagers do throughout the film – but it doesn’t condemn it either. Throughout the film, we hear snippets of news reports – train derailments, death, etc. all around – that doesn’t enter the teenager’s minds. They are so self-involved, they don’t notice anything else that doesn’t directly involve them – meaning, basically, they are typical teenagers. The film is matter of fact about everything – from the pornography they consume, to the orgies they have, the amateur porn videos they shoot and post online – which is what ultimately brings their actions to the adult’s attention – to the STIs, pregnancy and abortion that ends the film. The consequences of those are not long lasting though – anti-biotics are taken, and the infections go away, an abortion is had, and the girl is able to go one with her life and not be destroyed, etc. That’s both somehow reassuring – that the mistakes we make as teenagers don’t have to destroy our lives – and somehow sad, as no one seems to have learned very much from the experience. The exception here is George and Gabriel – yes, the final moments in the film may just be young love, destined to fail, as most teenage romances eventually do. Yet the very fact that both of these character still want, and are capable, of that kind of love after everything in the movie is a sign of hope. The characters incapable of that – no one more so than Alex – were always incapable of it. The actions in the movie are not what screws Alex up.