Being in the closet is a terrifying experience; the worry that the world is going to end if anybody finds our your secret, so you micro-manage your behaviour so as to not leave a trace of your true identity. We’ve seen plenty of films about teenage characters dealing with this seemingly drastic situation – My Best Friend (Mi Mejor Amigo) comes to the same situation from a different angle altogether, realising that coming out isn’t necessarily the definitive coming of age experience for LGBT youth.
The directorial debut of Martín Deus shows glimpses of closeted anxieties shared by many closeted teens, from major moments like ill-fated relationships with the opposite sex to the smaller everyday scenarios, such as the hell of averting your gaze when surrounded in a locker room. But these are all firmly planted in the background, important for getting a handle on who the central character is, but without relying on his sexuality as a defining characteristic. Lorenzo (played by the subtly wonderful Angelo Mutti Spinetta) is gay – but My Best Friend (Mi Mejor Amigo) is quietly remarkable by opting instead to depict a pivotal moment in his life far more likely to shape who he is than the revelation of his true identity.
Lorenzo is a shy, ever so slightly effeminate teenager, who has realised his own sexuality but is keeping quiet about it, focusing instead on his schoolwork. One day, Caito (Lautaro Rodríguez), the son a family friend, moves in, and Lorenzo is tasked with looking after him. Caito has moved south to be with Lorenzo’s family after his own family have struggled to look after him – he’s shy, but his quiet demeanour hides a number of problems of his own. Lorenzo decides to take the responsibility of looking after him, which proves to be a far more consequential life experience than any standard coming out scenario.
One of the masterstrokes of My Best Friend (Mi Mejor Amigo) is how no palatable sexual tension arises between Lorenzo and Caito. To do so would cheapen the portrayal of a turbulent friendship, and lessen the originality of seeing a relationship like this depicted onscreen. After all, one of the most conventional tropes of LGBT cinema is a coming out narrative focusing on a teenager becoming infatuated with a handsome new friend. The one moment where it feels like the film is going to fall into this trap quickly becomes a more tender display of close friendship – a kiss on the cheek leads to a genuinely loving hug, that’s powerful purely because of its sheer simplicity. Male friendships are very rarely depicted on screen in this manner, and it’s all the more powerful for averting stereotypes and making clear the gay character has no deeper romantic intention. He just loves his friend.
Which isn’t to say that the friendship between Lorenzo and Caito is drawn without anything in the way of dramatic stakes. Caito is prone to violent confrontation, and suffers from substance abuse, which makes him disappear from Lorenzo’s family home for days at a time, drawing a wedge between him and the family who has chosen to temporarily care for him. As Caito’s stay at the family home gets closer to an end, his behaviour becomes more erratic and less easily justifiable, making for a far more complicated relationship between the two – which Martín Deus is careful to depict with nuance and a lack of judgement.
My Best Friend (Mi Mejor Amigo) is a tender coming of age story, that upturns coming out narrative conventions to offer a rich, delicate portrayal of friendship. It’s an assured directorial debut, and I can’t wait to see what Martín Deus does next.
All pictures reproduced courtesy of Breaking Glass Pictures