The Adventures of Sebastian Cole

Director: Tod Williams
Screenwriters: Tod Williams

Institute History

  • 1999 Sundance Film Festival


Adventure is exactly what Sebastian is afraid he won’t find. As he scuffs his feet into adolescence, trapped in a small New York town with his “normal” family and “normal” childhood, he is unaware that life speeds toward him with full force.
To begin with, Henry, his stepfather, proclaims he is not comfortable as a man and wants to be a woman. Confused and upset, Sebastian’s mother drags him off to London. His biological father seems abnormally egocentric and selfish until you meet the rest of the family, and neither he nor his new trophy wife offers any real solace. Acting out and on the verge of losing it, Sebastian is shuttled back to the states and moves in with Henry/Henrietta, where they will have to learn to understand each other and themselves if he is to survive to manhood.
It is instantly evident that The Adventures of Sebastian Cole is not your average coming-of-age film. It is fresh and bold but also laced with incredible tenderness. Writer/director Tod Williams creates amazing dialogue that makes scenes cling to the memory long after. Adrian Grenier is a real find as Sebastian; he maneuvers perfectly through every tormented nuance and raging hormone. Clark Gregg as Henry/Henrietta, along with all the characters in Sebastian’s life, radiates crisp originality. The Adventures of Sebastian Cole avoids the usual glossy gauze of sentimentality of most coming-of-age stories. Like The Catcher in the Rye, this rite of passage is told with unfettered honesty and integrity.

Tod Williams, Director
Tod Williams was born in New York in 1968. He recei ed a BA in literature from columbia University in 1991 and an MFA in directing from the American Film Institute in 1996. In between, he worked as a stringer for The New York Times, directed Vladimir Nabokov’s play The Event, and directed several shorts. The Adventures of Sebastian Cole is his first feature-length film.

— John Cooper

Screening Details

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