Young Hearts

Belgium | 2024 | 97 min. | Anthony Schatteman

A small Belgian town is the setting of this wonderful and warm coming-out story. When 14-year-old Elias first sets eyes on his new neighbor, Alexander, a delicate first love emerges between the two, and damn what their heteronormative society tells them.

The teenage gay protagonist’s chief obstacle to happiness, in screenwriter/director Anthony Schatteman’s first feature, comes not from outside forces but from his own confusion and inexperience. After all, Belgium, even in a small town, is not exactly a hotbed of homophobia (same-sex marriage has been legal there since 2003), and Elias’s family and classmates are supportive, even blasé, when he confesses he’s crushing on Alexander, who just moved in across the street—and who himself offhandedly admits he’s had a boyfriend. (Alexander’s self-confidence is actually somewhat intimidating to a gay fledgling just hatching.) Smooth sailing, then, to romantic bliss? Not quite, not for a kid who’s only just begun to grapple with the concept of love. The heteronormativity Elias is surrounded by doesn’t offer any pertinent guidance; he also hesitates to disappoint his kind-of-girlfriend. Will he get out of his own way, stop holding Alexander at arm’s length, and follow his heart? Not until toward the end of this gentle drama, when a paterfamilias ex machina, Elias’s grandfather, impresses on him the importance of accepting love whenever/however you find it. As a queer coming-of-age tale that isn’t about struggle and anguish but simply chronicles one boy’s slow blooming, Young Hearts is a noteworthy step forward in representation.

—Gavin Borchert

  • Original Language Title: Junge Herzen
  • Director: Anthony Schatteman
  • Principal Cast: Lou Goossens, Marius De Saeger, Geert Van Rampelberg
  • Premiere Status: North American
  • Country: Belgium, Netherlands
  • Year: 2024
  • Running Time: 97 min.
  • Producer: Xavier Rombaut
  • Screenplay: Anthony Schatteman
  • Cinematographers: Pieter Van Campe
  • Editors: Emiel Nuninga
  • Music: Ruben De Gheselle
  • Website: Official Film Website
  • Awards: Berlin Film Festival 2024 (Crystal Bear, Special Mention)
  • Filmography: Debut Feature Film
  • Language: Dutch, French
  • Has Subtitles: Yes
  • US Distributor: Strand Releasing (not announced)
  • International Sales: Films Boutique