My Days of Mercy: clumsily sincere

Elliot Page is really the standout performance in My Days of Mercy (2017, Tali Shalom Ezer). In the film, they play Lucy, who, after her father is accused of first-degree murder in the US, becomes an anti-death penalty activist. At a protest outside a jail where an execution is taking place, Lucy meets Mercy (Kate Mara), an activist on the other side of the debate, whose father’s best friend and partner was murdered. Though they live in different states, Lucy in Ohio and Mercy in Illinois, the two have an undeniable spark. A sexual and romantic relationship thus develops as they try to grapple with the shocking differences in each views politics, the world, and the pursuit of forgiveness and justice. […]

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Ride or Die: joyfully chaotic… but to what end?

This film is doing a lot. Every one of the one hundred and forty two minutes (that’s nearly two and a half hours) is highly charged ー with drama, with plot, with sweeping vistas, and quite often with all three. It is an assault on your emotional sensibility from the very first scene, which culminates in a graphically violent and sexual murder. To take a step back and to look at what exactly this art is doing (if anything) is to be left with a myriad of questions. Crucially, I found myself wondering: is any of this really worth it? […]

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Happiness Adjacent: low budget, lower quality

Happiness Adjacent (Rob Williams, 2018) is one and a half hours of glaringly objective proof that you can’t just get on a cruise with an iPhone 3 and make a feature-length movie. (Okay, fine, an iPhone 6, but that doesn’t make it any better.) The film explores a story reminiscent gay p*rn: a straight married man (Kurt) who ends up falling for a gay guy (Hank) on a cruise. Hank narrates the film in voiceover, either as an omnipotent voice or in conversation with a towel in sunglasses which represents his friend Brian (no really), who abandoned him last-minute to sail the gulf of Mexico alone. It turns out low budget sometimes does mean low quality.

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Summer of 85: a sun-kissed dream turned nightmare

We all just want to be shirtless and gay and on a boat off the coast of France with the love of our lives, right? This film gives us plenty of that, with a gorgeous 80s aesthetic to boot. However, permeating this narrative are also moments of grief, sadness, regret, and a deep and impenetrable longing for what could have been. Tragedy and heartbreak live alongside youthful joy and discovery. But what taste does this specific blend leave in your mouth? Don’t worry, we’ll get to that. […]

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Tucked: gritty, bittersweet, and quintessentially British

Intergenerational connection is an often-forgotten but vital aspect of building community. In the LGBTQ community, the HIV/AIDS epidemic that attacked the gay scene of the 1980s and 90s has made such connection that much more difficult today ー simply, and devastatingly, there are not as many gay people who survived that era. Therefore, a film which orbits on the friendship between two drag queens, one in her 70s and the other in her 20s, is very much welcome. Beyond this relationship, the following film plays daintily with timelessnrss and identity to make us question the boundaries of gender, of queer aesthetics, and of queerness in an of itself. […]

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To Each, Her Own: one mess after another

Closeted lesbian grows up in oppressive religious household, denounces her faith and escapes to the bright lights of the city: we’ve all seen that movie. To Each, Her Own (Myriam Aziza, 2018) ー terrible title, by the way, but we’ll get to that ー focuses on the crises that come after.

Simone, comes from an Orthodox Jewish family and lives with her “room-mate and best friend” (family code for lesbian lover) Claire. Just as she finally thinks she’s ready to come out to her family, she falls for Sengalese chef Wali (a man). A novel and intriguing concept, of course, but where could it possibly lead? Well, as it turns out, both absolutely everywhere and resoundingly nowhere. Let’s get into this hot-mess-express of a shitshow movie, shall we? […]

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Alice Júnior: the pursuit of trans joy

My instinct is to say that this queer coming-of-age film is nothing revolutionary; however, it seems that ー even in 2021 ー a film aimed at teenagers that revolves around trans joy is in fact just that.
Alice Júnior (Gil Baroni, 2019) tells the story of its title character, a vibrant 17-year-old trans girl who’s worried about getting her first kiss. The film’s journey begins when she moves from a fancy apartment in a high-rise building in Recife to the small conservative town of Araucárias do Sul. After incidents of cyberbullying at her new school, she no longer has an online refuge to escape to. Can she reclaim a place in her new life? And, crucially, will she get her first kiss? […]

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The Blonde One: deeper than pure eroticism

The Blonde One is perhaps a generous translation of this film’s title. The original Spanish “Un rubio” is in fact very telling. Juan utters these words to refer to part-time lover Gabriel; it is an indefinite article for an indefinite relationship: to him, Gabriel is simply “a blonde”, another body to use and explore. From the start, what they have together appears strictly casual ー and yet, as time goes on, could there perhaps be more? […]

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The Panti Sisters: even camper than it sounds

A gay son returns to his homophobic family home in full drag, complete with a train so large it’s on-screen long enough for a slow fade into the film’s title: The Panti Sisters. Drag queen Gabbi ー who, with a last name like that, need not change it in drag ー breaks the fourth wall to narrate to us the story of how she made it here, sequins and all. She also has a reveal, because of course she does: sliding off her robe, she wears a purple rhinestoned mini-dress, a sensible choice for a family dinner.
If you thought this was camp, just wait for the rest of the movie. […]

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Dear Ex: wildly unhinged, but still magnificent

Literally translating the Chinese title to “Who Started Loving Him First?” gives us a lot more insight into what this film is actually about; perhaps, rather, it could have been “Who Did He Start Loving First?” ー the “he” referring to recently deceased Song Zheng-yuan. We spend the film with the people who surrounded Zheng-yuan’s life: his teenage son Song Chen-hsi; his ex-wife Liu San-Lien; and the male lover Chieh he left them both for in his final few weeks and months of life. When a battle for Zheng-yuan’s life insurance money forces these three characters into each other’s company, chaos ーpredictablyー arises. […]

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