Summer Storm (2004)

Tobi (Robert Stadlober) is at that age when young adults wonder who they are, what they want, and where, if anywhere, they fit in. Unfortunately, what Tobi wants is quite obvious and unattainable: his straight best friend, Achim (Kostja Ullmann), who seems oblivious to Tobi’s affections.

“Summer Storm” is the story of Tobi’s coming out, Tobi’s boat rowing team championship, and Tobi himself, a fragile young man who hides behind a mask of goofball lovability to avoid confronting the world head-on.

Similarly compelling are the trials of Tobi’s girlfriend Anke (Alicja Bachleda), who tries to understand the deep feelings Tobi has for his best bud. The only subplot that I thought did not work was the attempts of a member of the openly gay opposite team, Queerstrokes (cute, huh?) to seduce an apparently straight homophobe.

I found this to be silly and cartoonish, and to reinforce negative stereotypes about gays (they want to “convert” you.) I think that the director should have dropped that and concentrated on Tobi, who is, to be a fair, a compelling and likable character.

He can be naïve, he can be a jerk sometimes, but Tobi is well-realized and sympathetic. Robert Stadlober, who is bisexual in real life, gives a sensitive and restrained performance. I also liked his romance with Leo, a Queerstrokes member. Although I initially felt that Tobi was using Leo, I liked the direction their relationship took.

“Summer Storm” is a good if unexceptional drama with mostly realistic characters, humor, and heart. Some aspects ring false (such as the apparently straight Achim masturbating in the shower room with Tobi) but most of it was believable. It is a movie for people who like gay cinema and true-to-life films about growing up.

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