Four More Years: a not-so-innocent rom-com

After they first sleep together, Martin does everything he can to not let David get away. First, he makes him breakfast. Next, he drives David to his parents’ house in rural Sweden and they spend another night together. After driving David back into Stockholm the next day, Martin knows that this is as long as he can cling on; now, he must let David go back home, and hope that he comes back to him after his homosexual comedown. Fortunately for us, this is a romantic comedy, so I don’t think it spoils anything to say that’s not the end of their love story.

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Stage Mother: painfully average

Sometimes bad films are so bad they become iconic: The Room (2003), Michelle Visage’s favourite Showgirls (1995) and even the nightmare-fueled Cats (2019) have become cult classics. On the other side, sometimes great films have huge success and go on to be universally acclaimed by critics and audiences alike: think Citizen Kane (1941), The Godfather (1972) and even Titanic (1997). The least memorable films sit right in the middle: never good enough to be truly great, but never bad enough to be iconically awful. Stage Mother is one of those films. […]

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Wish You: a flawed but precious rom-com

Soft acoustic pop and passing cars lead into lingering glances across a sleeping city. Adoring fan Sang-i gazes longingly at street singer Kang In-su as he strums his way through a soppy ballad, the almost-title track “Wish For You”. Initial seeds of romance are planted within the first 2 minutes; yet, we are forced to wait with baited breath until the last 2 minutes to see whether the buds will blossom. This, of course, begs the question: how much do we really gain along the way? […]

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Sequence Analysis: The Handmaiden, destroy the library

“The daughter of a legendary thief, who sewed winter coats out of stolen purses. Herself a thief, pickpocket, swindler. The saviour who came to tear my life apart. My Tamako, my Sook-Hee.” So narrates Lady Hideko over perhaps the most celebrated scene of Park Chan-Wook’s The Handmaiden (2016). In the emotional and symbolic climax of this two-and-a-half hour Korean epic, Sook-Hee and Hideko, class enemies turned lovers, destroy a library together, shouting a symbolic fuck you to the patriarchy in the process. In order to understand the full impact of this action for characters and spectators alike, we must first briefly circle back and work out how we got here. […]

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The Handmaiden: Sapphic mystery goes rogue

Crossing, double-crossing, triple-crossing. Failed heists, successful heists, twists. Lesbian sex scenes that reclaim symbols of patriarchy; lead characters defying expectations of womanhood and class in the repressive Japanese-occupied Korea; ripples and reprecussions of political and cultural history. This film has it all. And so much more. Then, just when you think you know what’s going on, your whole reality is turned on its head. Twice. […]

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Boy Erased: a well-paced, engrossing drama

Home videos, car journeys and small town Americana vibes quickly move aside to reveal the harsh security and even harsher rules of one gay conversion therapy programme. Participants read out increasingly strict rules in an arresting first 10 minutes: “members must be supervised by staff in all restrooms visits”; “no physical contact with any member at any time apart from the briefest of handshakes.” I think this film might be a little more intense than But I’m A Cheerleader […]

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Your Name Engraved Herein: a love story without any love

Marketed as part- queer coming-of-age story part- bittersweet romance, Taiwan’s most popular film of 2020 landed on global Netflix in December. Complete with a seemingly deep and enigmatic title, Your Name Engraved Herein (Patrick Kuang-Hui Liu, 2020) sells itself as arthouse queer cinema out in the mainstream; it is, after all, the highest-grossing LGBT film in Taiwanese cinematic history. And yet, having reached the end of an intense and brooding 1 hour and 54 minutes, I couldn’t help but ask… am I missing something? […]

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A New York Christmas Wedding: the best and the worst film you’ve ever seen

Starting this film off, I had to google to check whether it was, in fact, queer. Fortunately, after an appearingly heterosexual opening, the lesbianism arrives ー slowly, and then all at once. Just to reassure you: the titular New York Christmas Wedding does end up being a New York Christmas Lesbian Wedding. More accurately, a A New York Christmas Surprise Lesbian Catholic Wedding. But we’ll get to that. […]

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Sequence Analysis: Call Me By Your Name’s final scene

He stares into the fire as if searching for something; he seems drawn to it inextricably, and nods when he sits down, perhaps recognising memories from summer in the twisting flames that eventually must mark his retinas. A mix of tears, sobs and smiles, the moment —along with Elio’s emotional journey— is bittersweet. He bites his lip, chewing on a memory; later, a tear falls down his face and he lets it enter his mouth, letting himself literally consume the sadness, embracing and surrendering to the emotion. […]

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