It must say something about our changing culture that the arrival of a gay coming-of-age movie can seem almost routine. Or is it simply that all coming-of-age movies draw on the same reservoir of adolescent emotion?
In this small British charmer, 16-year-old Steven (gawky, vulnerably sincere) falls in love with classmate John (strapping, popular, athletic). Anyone who has seen an after-school special can anticipate the plot, culminating in Steven's big commencement speech. But Silverstone constantly surprises in the role. His performance turns out to be intensely passionate in both its romantic swooning and its defiant anger. And the movie's setting—a suburb of green lawns, gardens and parks—reminds us that even in the least exotic surroundings, the period of sexual awakening is a rare springtime. (R)