James Bolton’s “Eban and Charley” takes a low-key approach to a highly charged topic, that of adults becoming involved romantically with underage youths. In this instance the adult is a 29-year-old gay man, Eban (Brent Fellows), who has returned to his parents’ home in a coastal community somewhere outside Seattle and strikes up a friendship with Charley (Giovanni Andrade), who is on the eve of his 15th birthday.
Eban is a thin, shy man with distant parents; his father (Ron Upton) looks old enough to be his grandfather. Eban doesn’t seem to be looking for a job and just hangs around. Charley’s mother has died, and he has been sent to live with her ex-husband (Nolan V. Chard), who resents his son’s presence, keeps for himself funds intended by his ex-wife for their son and treats Charley harshly.
An aspiring poet, Charley is resilient and outgoing, and it is he who makes the first move in taking his relationship with Eban beyond friendship.
Eban is fully aware of the inappropriateness and danger of becoming involved with an underage youth. He tries to resist Charley, yet when the film jumps ahead at a certain point, it’s pretty clear they have crossed that physical line and they’re headed for trouble if they stick around this community. It’s either break up or break out.
Bolton manages to work up considerable sympathy for Eban and Charley, well played by Fellows and Andrade, and their predicament, but it’s impossible not to wish that Eban would wait until Charley was of age to become involved with him romantically. Bolton makes a quietly impassioned, if unconvincing, case that what Eban and Charley do with their lives and with each other is nobody else’s business, but it is reasonable for society to be concerned with the emotional well-being of its underage youth.
Bolton is far more persuasive in showing how isolated and endangered Eban and Charley are in this small community. Few people will be able to go along with Bolton’s point of view regarding relationships between adults and underage youths, but there’s no denying the writer-director, in his feature debut, has avoided sensationalism in telling this story.
Unrated. Times guidelines: Although the film does not contain depictions of sex, its themes and issues are decidedly mature.
‘Eban and Charley’
Brent Fellows ... Eban
Giovanni Andrade ... Charley
Nolan V. Chard ... Charley’s father
Ron Upton ... Eban’s father
A Picture This! Entertainment release. Writer-director James Bolton. Producer Chris Monlux. Cinematographer Judy Irola. Music Stephen Merritt.
Exclusively at the Fairfax Cinemas, Beverly Boulevard at Fairfax Avenue, (323) 655-4010.