Taking a short film, in this case I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone and blowing it up to feature-length can have unintended consequences of distorting the might and power of the original. Thank god that The Way He Looks extends that short’s empathy and compassion, and its minute details in which blossoming sexuality is not a hard and fast thing but an organic output of a shared connection. It’s these emotional details that make the warmth and sweetness of The Way He Looks so resonate.
It helps that the story is populated by the types of teenage characters that we don’t see often. Less the storybook clichés of American films learning to try and function something like normal humans and instead normal humans trying to gain autonomy and identity through complicated processes. Not only does The Way He Looks make the quest for sexual identity and autonomy one more physically tactile and emotionally nebulous, but it also wraps it around a disabled protagonist. We get a character that’s struggling for independence and authority over his existence on several levels, and it’s a joy to watch him triumph.