Published Sep 14, 2015Please note that only capsule reviews are authorized for this title until its theatrical release.
Closet Monster is a sweet and sincere queer coming-of-age film, written and directed by first-time filmmaker Stephen Dunn. The film is a charming slice of Atlantic Canadian romanticism, and while the script is a bit clunky, Dunn's blend of complex psychology and humour is a welcome treat in the midst of Oscar-bait queer films like Freeheld at this year's TIFF.
The film follows a Newfoundland teen with a flair for makeup photography who struggles with his sexuality and problems with his father. As a child, he witnessed a violent hate crime involving a gay teen, and has suffered psychosomatic problems when thinking about his sexual identity ever since. As Oscar (in an excellent turn by Connor Jessup) tries to figure out what to do after high school, he develops feelings for a co-worker, and things develop from there.
Dunn peppers the film with alternating elements of delicate fantasy and jarring Cronenberg-ian body horror, handling the material with a strong command of tone. Especially of note is a talking hamster, voiced by Isabella Rossellini, who follows Oscar through childhood, and provides the film with a welcome sense of humour. Although Dunn's tone can veer a little too far into high camp at times, with the film's darkest elements edging too far into melodrama territory, Closet Monster works well overall thanks to its strong direction and cast.