Mikko Makela’s “Sebastian” presents sex work in a curious and empowering light that we rarely see on screen.
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“Sebastian” Plot Summary
Mikko Makela’s “Sebastian” presents sex work in a curious and empowering light that we rarely see on screen. The Sundance drama is graphic but never sensational, gripping but never false, and while there’s tension in the sex work, there’s liberation for the character. “Sebastian” will be a noted landmark film for its sex positivity and exploration of LGBT+ identity.
“Sebastian” takes place in London, where 25-year-old Max (Ruaridh Mollica) is an aspiring writer who leads a double life as a sex worker. Max’s debut novel is getting much interest and buzz from his publisher, Dionne (Leanne Best), and many others in the literary world. While Max has freelance work as a writer and his debut novel is on its way, no one knows that his novel is actually about his life as a sex worker named Sebastian.
Max is living two lives: one as an emerging, acclaimed writer, and the other as a gay sex worker. What becomes clear is that Max finds power in both of these worlds, but his secrecy comes at the risk of harming both his writing and sex work. When he meets a client (Jonathan Hyde) who also occupies the literary world, Max’s two professions become dangerously closer than ever before. As the lines between Max’s professions blur, so does his passion for and interest in each.
“Sebastian” hones in on Max’s perspective, told with curiosity about the taboo and the power within secrets. Writer and director Mikko Makela does not glamorize sex work, nor does he make it something repulsive; the truth is within the complications of social attitudes about the longest-lasting profession there is. Max finds himself bearing the weight of centuries of societal shame about who he is, and like the best of films, his story makes us question our own beliefs.
“Sebastian” is currently not rated, but includes profanity, drug use, and graphic sex scenes, including full frontal male nudity.
Other Noteworthy Information
- Filmmaker Mikko Makela explained that “Sebastian” was inspired by exploring a story about a man with many choices who chooses to do sex work. The opposite is often depicted in tales about sex work.
“Sebastian” General Information
|January 25, 204
|How To Watch
|Film Festival – Sundance Film Festival
|1 Hour, 50 Minutes
|Noted Characters and Cast
Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.
Max/ Sebastian (Ruaridh)
Mas is a published writer in the middle of writing his first novel about a sex worker in the digital age. But Max has also been living a secret life as a sex worker named Sebastian, risking his “prestigious” job at the cost of his nighttime job.
- The actor is also known for their role in “Red Rose.”
Dionne (Leanne Best)
Dionne is Max’s literary agent and is thrilled about his debut novel, “Sebastian.” Dionne is Max’s key to the literary world, but she also has strong opinions about the direction of his book, which conflict with Max’s own personal experience.
Nicholas (Jonathan Hyde)
Nicholas is an elderly client of Sebastian’s, but he’s also an established figure in the literary world. While Nicholas contacts Max for sex, he seems to truly just enjoy Max’s company as the two share their pasts and wants.
- The actor is also known for their role in “Titanic.”
Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)
The Continued Exposition of Max’s Life
About halfway through “Sebastian,” we finally meet Max’s parents. With little more than 30 minutes left, Max is asked why he does sex work. We keep learning more and more about Max throughout the movie. The script’s exposition comes naturally, with “show, don’t tell” being the primary rule. What makes the relatively reserved protagonist so riveting is that his epiphanies about himself come as we learn them too.
The Curiosity of the Camera Lens
As Max texts anonymous men and clicks through his own profile, the camera takes on Max’s perspective. We see the world and Max through Max’s eyes. “Sebastian” keeps the camera up close to Ruaridh Mollica’s face as his worlds slowly start to melt together. We relive Max’s memories as he types away his story; we’re in the room with him as he has sex; and ultimately, Makela’s camera makes us an active participant in Max’s story.
Good If You Like
- LGBT+ stories, sex-positive stories, and grounded dramas.
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