Get Real (1998)

Get Real is a 1998 British film directed by Simon Shore, based on the play What’s Wrong With Angry? by screenwriter Patrick Wilde. The plot centres around gay teenager Steven Carter’s coming out to the world, and was shot in and around Basingstoke, England.

The film centers on 16-year-old Steven Carter, a gay teenager with a passion for photography and journalism. He is on his school’s newspaper and yearbook staff and has spent a great deal of time writing an essay for a local newspaper-sponsored contest. Still in the closet, Carter is nonetheless tormented by some of his classmates for some of his perceived “queer” traits.

Steven Carter (Ben Silverstone) is a 16-year-old Basingstoke, England, schoolboy who has come to terms with the fact that he is gay, having realised his sexual orientation at age 11. His only confidante is his next-door neighbour and best friend, Linda (Charlotte Brittain), an overweight girl with a negative self-image. Linda is critical of Steven’s habit of cruising a local public park toilet to meet men. Steven romanticizes these visits, even claiming to have found love in a young writer named Glen Armstrong (David Eliot), with whom he has sex in secluded areas in the woods.

Steven is not happy at home. His mother (Jacquetta May) seems to be quietly sympathetic to her son, but his photographer father (David Lumsden), a Doctor Who buff, tends to be overbearing and crowds Steven’s personal space. Neither is aware of their son’s sexual orientation. At school, because of his shy, diffident manner, Steven is tormented by the sports jocks, especially the obnoxious bully Kevin Grainger (Tim Harris). Grainger is a close associate of the head boy and school sports idol, John Dixon (Brad Gorton), who is very handsome and athletic. To Linda, he is “sex on legs.” Steven confides to Linda that he is attracted to John but they are, of course, worlds apart.

One day, Steven returns to the park toilet and is propositioned by a mystery man in the stall next to his, who passes him a note through a small hole. They agree to meet outside the loo. Waiting outside, Steven is stunned to discover that the mystery man is none other than John Dixon. John tries to brush off the incident as a silly lapse in judgement, saying, “I don’t know what came over me.” He appears very surprised when Steven declares to him that he is in fact “dodgy.”

Learning that Steven’s parents are out, John accompanies Steven home. After some awkward moments, he begins to unbuckle Steven’s trouser belt but loses his self-assurance and flees when Steven attempts to kiss him. Subsequently, John resists Steven’s every attempt to speak to him at school and makes it clear he wishes to have no contact with him whatsoever. School life proceeds. Under the supervision of their English teacher, Mr. Hutton, (Richard Hawley), Steven, his mate Mark Watkins (Patrick Nielsen) and classmates Jessica (Stacey A. Hart) and Wendy Bates (Kate McEnery) form the committee responsible for producing the school magazine.

Steven’s unhappy life continues. A ray of light shines through when he is assigned to take photographs of the school’s athletic team for the magazine. While he is negotiating the loan of a camera from his father at his studio, Glen from the park toilet enters by chance to keep an appointment. Steven’s isolation is further accentuated when he discovers Glen to be married and a father. Subsequently, Steven reports as required to photograph the school athletes, the star among whom is John Dixon. Dixon allows himself to be photographed by Steven but is obviously quite ill at ease.

Some time afterward, at the school ball, Steven draws closer to Jessica, who has been badly treated by Grainger. She begins to develop a crush on Steven, unaware that he is gay. Steven, who has escorted Linda to the ball, eyes John forlornly all during the evening. John’s date is a very attractive underwear model, Christina Lindmann (Louise J. Taylor). While dancing with Christina, John exchanges smouldering stares with Steven. This does nothing to ease Steven’s discomfiture and unhappiness. Eventually, Steven and Linda return home. With Steven’s parents away, they plan an evening of Mel Gibson videos to deaden the hurt of their respective lack of romantic success.

While Linda goes to her home next door to fetch the movies, Steven is stunned when John appears at his bedroom door. After shooing the returning Linda off, a bewildered Steven is kissed full on the mouth by the inebriated John, who then shares a story with him about a previous homosexual experience. John confesses his sexual confusion and fears and his attraction to Steven, pleading for his help. The two kiss and embrace warmly.

Steven and John spend the weekend together, sexually consummating their new friendship. As the story progresses, they grow closer. John, however, remains firmly closeted and refuses to even acknowledge their friendship at school, masquerading as straight and pressuring Steven to keep their relationship completely under wraps. As happily in love as he is, Steven remains frustrated by being unable to be open to the world about his true nature. This situation is too stressful for him, and he eventually confides to an incredulous Linda that he and John are lovers.

On one occasion, unable to find privacy at either of their homes, John and Steven enter the park after hours to make love. Afterward, Steven is caught by the police, though John manages to elude them. A policeman escorts Steven home, where his very irate father voices his concern that he might have been molested by some “pervert” in a park that is a known gay cruising spot. In his hurt, frustration and anger, Steven blurts out, “Well, where else are we supposed to go?” His father is confused by the remark, but his mother begins to suspect. Later, tucking her sleeping son in, she observes the photos that he has taken of John lying around his bedroom and quietly comes to the correct conclusion about their significance.

Frustrated and exasperated by this experience, the secrecy and his father’s badgering, Steven writes an essay entitled “Get Real” on being 16, gay, browbeaten by parents and peers, and having to lead a duplicitous existence and anonymously submits it to the school magazine.

Steven, demoralised by John’s apparent lack of commitment to their love, confronts him after John breaks a date with him in order to meet Christina Lindmann. Accusing him of being ashamed of their relationship, Steven suggests to John that they might as well call it off. John, touched by Steven’s hurt, admits that while he really likes Christina, it is Steven that he truly loves and pleads for a last chance to demonstrate his love.

Indeed, in the days immediately following, John openly engages Steven in conversation in the school corridors, making arrangements to meet in various places within full earshot of their schoolmates. The lovers’ relationship further blossoms thereafter, with Steven spending a weekend at John’s home during his (John’s) parents’ absence. These developments mystify Kevin Grainger, especially when he comes upon the pair in the Dixon family swimming pool, John sitting astride Steven’s shoulders.

It’s the end of the term, with the school track meet and prize-giving ceremony. Jessica, whose overtures to Steven have been rebuffed, deduces that he is the author of the “Get Real” article, but in an act of true friendship, covers his back. The school head refuses to allow publication of the article in the magazine, leading the student editors to publish a blank page with the word “CENSORED” across it. The “gay article” denied publication becomes the No. 1 talking point across the school. Consumed by paranoia, John has correctly guessed that Steven is the anonymous author. Terrified over the possibility of exposure, John has an argument with Steven, observed by Jessica, who accurately surmises that they are lovers.

Matters are worsened when John’s father comes to him seeking out Steven for copies of photos taken of John. Having never even mentioned Steven’s existence to his parents, John denies knowing who he is. Mrs. Dixon shows up at that point with Steven, who has been talking to her about having spent a weekend at their house as John’s guest. The various conflicting stories arouse the suspicions of both Steven’s and John’s parents, but it is Mrs. Carter who finally decides to privately enlighten her husband as regards their son and what she has deduced to be the true nature of his relationship with John Dixon.

After the track meet, in which John performs badly because of the psychological stress, he and Steven have a further dispute in the boys’ locker room. The argument ends with John storming out and a hurt Steven retaliating by tearing one of the shirts in John’s sports bag. He is caught by Kevin Grainger who accuses him of being gay and trying to corrupt Dixon. As Grainger and another jock are about to beat Steven up, John comes back into the room. He sizes up the situation quickly, gets rid of Grainger and friend, indicating that he will take care of Carter himself.

Outside, a smug, contented Grainger listens with pleasure to the noises of violence emanating from the room. They are in fact the sounds of John beating up his bag and Steven uttering fake cries of pain. Elated by their trick, John and Steven embrace and are about to kiss when Kevin bursts in upon them to warn of an approaching teacher. John spontaneously slams Steven into a locker and kicks him in the stomach as he falls to the ground, raining homophobic slurs upon him.

At the prize-giving ceremony, Steven, bruised in body and soul, mounts the assembly-hall stage to accept an award. Speaking to the parents, teachers and fellow students, his cup overflows and he comes out, declaring himself to be gay and telling them how miserable it is to hide one’s true self. He declares, “It’s only love. What’s everyone so scared of?” He glances at John in the hope that he will speak up, but is heartbroken when he does not, John instead shaking his head from side to side almost imperceptibly. His speech receives a standing ovation from many in the audience, much to the discomfiture of the head.

Alone later on the sports field, John attempts to reconcile with Steven, avowing that he has never loved anyone in his entire life as much as he loves him. But John’s paranoia over discovery and Steven’s new-found freedom are incompatible. Steven says to John, “be happy,” and takes his leave. As Steven exits the sports field, he is met by Linda driving her new car. The film ends with the pair driving away, as Aretha Franklin’s song “Think” plays on the radio and the lyric “freedom” is belted out repeatedly.


Ben Silverstone as Steven Carter
Brad Gorton as John Dixon
Charlotte Brittain as Linda
Stacy Hart as Jessica
Kate McEnery as Wendy
Patrick Nielsen as Mark
Tim Harris as Kevin
James D. White as Dave

It’s another coming of age movie, the story was quite good actually, but somehow it lacks emotion *shrugs*, but I do like this poster of the movie:

a pic of Ben Silverstone

and Brad Gorton



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