Julia Jackman has crafted an inspirational debut. Her Bonus Track has a strong sense of being a classical, down-to-earth film and it does not try to be anything beyond that. Instead, the feature develops an entertaining coming-of-age storyline with subtle queer motives.
The movie’s main hero, George (Joe Anders), is a reticent, 16-year-old young boy, who is totally lost in his school life. We learn that not only he is one of the worst students, but it’s also difficult for him to make friends with anyone else. Contrary to his education, George is fascinated by pop music and dreams of becoming a famous musician. However, dreams are only fantasies and his entire environment – from the school’s teachers to his father (only his mother tends to be supportive) – tells him to finally start thinking about his future exams. Yet, his life changes when he meets Max (Samuel Small), the son of famous musicians. Surprisingly, this tiny encounter will change their lives forever.
This friendship (or even something more than that?) starts off as a small blessing for both of them, as they, little by little, start overcoming each other’s problems. The film, through the first meeting of George and Max, acutely establishes a special rapport, one between the most and least popular kids in the entire school. At first, it all looks like a conventional buddy movie, but it gives us a transition into something much more special.
Its somewhat straightforward plot is strengthened by the movie’s (and George’s) affection towards music. Bonus Track reveals how uplifting and life-saving can songs be if people need them during their worst and depressive times. Furthermore, we learn about George’s interest in Elton John’s music (which becomes a signifier of his own sexuality that he still tries to understand), and the film offers a coherent soundtrack, including such artists as Franz Ferdinand. For the last course, Jackman’s debut presents an eponymous bonus track, a song that both George and Max have been working on. The sequence depicting their performance is the feature’s most poignant moment.
While its storytelling is uncomplicated, the entire film still works as a singular story about finding both understanding and warmth in the most unexpected person. Thanks to an awe-inspiring ending, Bonus Track suddenly becomes a significant voice in modern LGBTQ+ films. Fans of heartwarming family dramas will undoubtedly enjoy it, but what about others? They can treat it as a bold, promising and refreshing debut. In any case, watch out for Julia Jackman: it’s a surname that should be remembered.
Bonus Track does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Bonus Track here: