Neil is a freshman in high school who writes fan fiction about his favorite character, Vanguard. His stories are part of the subgenre slash fiction, which means that they are erotic stories about Vanguard and his fellow male characters. Neil is scared of anyone finding out about his passion, but when he meets Julia, a slightly older girl who also writes erotic fan fiction, Neil is pushed to publish the stories online.
You have to love the variety of films that Fantasia International Film Festival show. "Slash" is far from many of the dark and odd horror movies that show there, but certainly not a surprising title either since the festival covers it all (even animation). "Slash" had me curious from its trailer because it seemed like a movie that was very open and accepting, but also doesn't take itself too seriously. It's a movie about outsiders and the people around them, and trying to show all the sides of all types (though scumbags are scumbags).
The name "Slash" comes from the subgenre of fan fiction that is called "slash fiction", which is erotic fan fiction about characters of the same sex. Neil is a 15 year old who writes slash fiction about Vanguard. You can imagine how that fact is received once people at high school find out. Luckily, Neil meets Julia. Julia is a bit older, and a fellow geek. She writes the same kind of stories and has been doing it for years. She has also published them online on a site (The Rabbit's Hole). She pushes Neil to continue with his writing and to publish it online - and when he does, it's so well received that he is invited to a local convention to present his stories for the community. The only issue is that they think that Neil is 18 years old.
While "Slash" is often a movie that communicates with and through geeks, the themes are universal. It's about growing up, learning who you are, love, conquering fears, you name it. It's a coming of age story, and a pretty decent one at that. The movie is about a young guy with a weird hobby who is also unsure of his sexuality. The movie doesn't try to put Neil in a category when it comes to his sexuality, which is a great thing. It lets him explore it and it's okay if he doesn't find a definite answer, because things aren't that simple. Through his writing he gets to explore things as a teenager, that adults wouldn't want him to discover yet, and it proves to be a great thing for him. He's allowed to get comfortable with his many contrasting feelings.
The slash fiction is used both seriously and comically. The movie starts in one of the stories, and we're treated to a gay scene between Vanguard and another male character. It's somewhat silly and at first I was afraid the movie wouldn't treat the subject with respect, but luckily it did. It's just a bit of comic relief, but the movie does not make fun of the idea of slash fiction. That said, the movie is never a laughing riot either. It's a fun feel good movie, but I see as much drama in it as I see comedy.
My biggest gripe with "Slash" is that Julia doesn't differ much from the manic pixie girl stereotype. It's fine that she is a character to help Neil get through his problems and grow, but I had hoped for her to be less typical as such. I'm not being entirely fair, since Julia does show much of herself and is a lot more available emotionally than the type, but towards the end the movie seemed to fall into many familiar holes.
It's a great balance between respecting an "odd" community while having fun with it too. The actors all successfully portray this. Michael Johnston is like made for the role of Neil. His manners, his looks and his comic timing are perfect for a confused teenager trying to find himself. Hannah Marks as Julia is a great fit too, and she is very likable, but it's unfortunate that she fell into some clichés. While those two are our main characters, I also have to mention the wonderful Michael Ian Black. You never know what you'll get, but he never disappoints. In "Slash" I expected him to be a sleazy weirdo, but he turns out to be one of the most sincere and honest characters in the movie. A great character to finally help Neil with his final steps in accepting who he is.
"Slash" is not a perfect movie. It's not a extraordinary coming of age tale. It's quite standard in many ways, but very enjoyable still. It's a nice movie that I highly suggest for whenever you want to watch something lighter. Despite being about a very niche community, the themes are far from niche. I am sure there will be haters for the sake of hating a movie with some gay themes, but that's their problem. I liked "Slash" and I am sure a lot of people will!