18 year old shy Nicholas is drafted for compulsory military service and his family is throwing him a send off party. His father gives him a porn magazine as "ammunition" to keep with him. Of course, when he reaches the camp, he is headthrown into the shouting, fighting, swearing world of military and all the new recruits playing roughly at manhood. We notice Nicholas is trying to hide something, from others and possibly even from himself. The training of the boys begin which is a literal assault course of abuse, humiliation and physical exhaustion and any boy who briefly wavers or steps out of line is labeled a “moffie,” as if no greater failing could be imagined of a man. Another recruit Stassen is someone who catches Nicholas' fancy but he cant do anything about it. In a wet ditch one night, its wet and cold and the two boys are forceed to sleep next to one another naked. We don't get to know what happens but apparently thats enough to open up Nicholas's imagination. We are then shown in a flashback sequence when Nick wad a child, he was caught peeping while not yet into his teens by someone’s outraged dad, and had to be whisked away by his own parents with dozens looking on. Nicholas has never got over that moment. For reasons, we are not told, Stassen, is moved to Ward 22, a place reserved for "moffies" and Nicholas can do nothing about it. The two men eventually meet after months of them finishing the military but the scars are left on them permanently. The film ends on a questioning and uncertain note.
The first half of the film was very very nice. The way the whole training was shown, young boys being forced to military etc was something very real and slowly the layers started to peel and you would see a young man yearning for love but somehow controlling himself. The flashback does show us how and why Nicholas has learned to avert his eyes from people to safeguard his masculine insecurity and aggression of the society. The direction of the film and the story is beautiful and painful. But I also do have certain issues with the film. There was a lot about these 2 men that could have been explored. The film largely focuses on what military regiment does to these young men, so when it becomes all about their love towards the latter half, it felt a little disjointed to me. The whole last section of border tour and fight also felt rushed and disconnected. Secondly, I feel that with the amount of suffering that black men had to go through during the apartheid time, making a film showing a gay white man as a victim over black man is slightly unfair. I am not saying that this was not an issue, but I would have loved to see the film strike a balance and shown some correlation to a gay white man's suffering to a black man's day to day survival. This is my personal view which doesn't take away from the fact that what is shown in the film is still quite interesting. The two boys give very defining performances that need to be recognized and applauded, especially Nicholas whose eyes speak volume about the constant fear of being exposed.
I had much higher expectations having read the unanimous praises of what a masterpiece this film is. It is good but not great because of my issues with some topics mentioned above. The film is masterpiece for the lead's acting for sure and for showing us about a time which wasn't too far ago and to think these things really happened, is just frightening. (6.5/10)