Written and directed by Marco van Bergen, Viktor van der Valk, Marc Wagenaar, Jordi Wijnalda and Kasper van Beek. A married factory worker confronts his feelings as they bubble to the surface, two boxers fight for more than just keeps, a countryside coming out doesn’t quite go to plan, while at the beach a boy makes an unreal discovery. Starring: Gijs Blom, Bas Keizer, Matthijs van de Sande Bakhuyzen, Tom van Kessel, Kay Greidanus, Tine Joustra, Julian Moon Snijder and Milan Boele van Hensbroek.
The key theme that this collection of shorts explores is burgeoning sexuality, something that’s not limited to age or situation but is a universal element of self discovery in queer people. Each short approaches it from a different angle, covering: young, closeted love, naivety, curiosity, obsession, repression and loneliness. Whether they’re each trying to embrace or deny their sexuality, it all feeds back to the same theme. They’re individual in style and tone but so far as to not work together; they fit smoothly to the right degree without blending into one another. Aesthetically they’re all fairly down to earth, with the possible exception of Lukas by the Sea which occasionally tries a touch too hard to feel stylish, bringing a relatability and sympathy. None of them quite manage to hit a deeper note, to really stab at your emotions but they each hold a certain sincerity or honesty that tells a common experience in an unassuming way that you can connect to.
Another consistent factor between them is the minimal use of dialogue, it doesn’t rely on words to bring forth its meaning and is confident enough to sit in the quiet. Particularly in Beautiful Alexander, which translates the majority of its emotions through the acting and movement alone. The feelings they all bring vary from sad to sweet to sensitive, but all of them relate back to the true to life experiences of queer people, and some much more universally.
The performances are solid across the board, there’s no weak link and they all have something to add and yet a few of them do stand out among the rest. Firstly, both Bas Keizer and Gijs Blom in Dante vs. Mohammed Ali, they have a wonderful connection and while that particular short is heavier on the dialogue, most of that is built through the way they look at one another. They work extremely well together and each represent different experiences, while one wants to break out, the other wants to stay in the closet to please his community. Secondly, Florian Regtien in Beautiful Alexander who gives a beautifully subtle but touching performance, bringing forth a barrage of different emotions without having to say a word.
The Dutch Boys is a relatable, sweet and down to earth collection of short films. Each of them may represent a different experience but together they present a collective one. It shows that discovering your sexuality and curiosity is not bound by age, showing a more universal side to the experience. Its filmmakers impressively manage to each bring a different style to their films and yet have them pair wonderfully with one another, never blending but never clashing.