Milly Gribben highlights four film from the 2020 Frameline Film Festival, an annual showcase for LGBTQ+ storytelling which is being held online and geo-locked to California this year.
The 44th edition of LGBTQ+ festival Frameline runs from the 17th-27th September and is based almost entirely online this year. The only exception is a drive-in screening of D’Arcy Drollinger’s Shit and Champagne on the opening night. Online tickets and passes provide access to the festival’s programme for the whole 11 days, geo-locked to California, and there are numerous Q&As running during the event (be sure to check the website for dates/times).
LGBTQ+ film festivals like Frameline are so vital because they create near utopian spaces where the full breadth of queer experiences can be explored and shared. Discussed below are my thoughts on just a small selection of the diverse films screening at this year’s festival. They are vastly different in tone, subject matter, and style, ranging from the sharp, painfully relatable comedy Shiva Baby, to Two of Us, a melancholic story of elderly lesbian lovers.
Anna Kerrigan’s feature debut, Cowboys, is the heartfelt story of Troy (Steve Zahn), and his transgender son, Joe (Sasha Knight), who escape from their conservative family to the wilderness of Montana. Flashbacks gently explore Joe’s gender dysphoria, his father’s slow acceptance, and the cold severity of his mother Sally (a surprisingly icy Jillian Bell). The film occasionally slips into trite melodrama but is mostly a sweet, well-meaning tale of a father’s love for his son.
Monsoon is a gentle, visually poetic second feature from director Hong Khaou (Lilting). Henry Golding gives a quietly affecting performance as Kit, an English-Vietnamese man who returns to Saigon to scatter his parents’ ashes. His stoic presence grounds the occasionally unfocused, overly sedate narrative as Kit travels and has a tender, if far too brief, romance with American entrepreneur Lewis (Parker Sawyers). Sadly, like its protagonist, Monsoon feels somewhat lost and without a sense of purpose.
Emma Seligman’s debut, Shiva Baby, is a wince-inducing comedy following Danielle (Rachel Sennot), a deeply flawed college student who encounters both her ex-girlfriend Maya (Molly Gordon) and her sugar daddy, Max (Danny Deferrari), at a Jewish funeral. Well-judged performances, pithy editing, and Ariel Marx’s spiky score intensify the squirming tension as Danielle struggles to avoid her lovers, her responsibilities, and the pressure of traditional expectations. This assured film marks Seligman as a director to watch.
Two of Us
Two of Us (Deux) from director Filippo Meneghetti is the story of elderly lovers Nina (Barbara Sukowa) and Madeleine (Martine Chevallier) who have hidden their decades-long romance from Madeleine’s family. Their relationship is threatened when Madeleine suffers a stroke and must rely on the assistance of a carer (Muriel Bénazéraf).
The film begins in a gorgeously tender fashion, depicting the slow mundanity of the couple’s lives together. Yet dread creeps into their relationship, brilliantly emphasised by cinematographer Aurélien Marra’s long takes, including the striking image of food burning on a stove after Madeleine collapses.
Unfortunately, the film then becomes contrived to the point of melodrama with Nina resorting to increasingly extreme and illogical actions to maintain contact with her lover. While the tense plot highlights the anxiety LGBTQ+ couples face in our heteronormative society, it soon feels exhausting and exploitative, offering little beyond a thinly drawn story of queer pain, a marked shift from the optimistic beauty found in its opening scenes.
Read Call Me by Your Name: A Special Issue, a collection of essays through which you can relive Luca Guadagnino’s swoon-worthy summer tale.
Read our ebook Portraits of resistance: The cinema of Céline Sciamma, the first book ever written about Sciamma.
Read God’s Own Country: A Special Issue, the ultimate ebook companion to this gorgeous love story.