This August I reviewed the films at the Los Angeles Outfest. This month I’m discussing additional films from the Chicago Reeling Festival, Atlanta’s Out on Film and San Francisco’s Frameline Festival. There were several recurring themes.
Are We Lost Forever (2020, Sweden). A man reels from the end of a three-year relationship. Whenever he runs into his ex, we see flashes of what drove them apart in the first place. The film mines black comedy from the characters’ stress. Captures the cauldron of emotions that come up when people try to rebuild themselves. Though it can’t quite sustain the tension for the 100-minute run time. B-
The Goddess of Fortune (La Dea Fortuna) (2019, Italy). Two men are about to break up when they’re asked to care for an ailing friend’s children. Avoids sentimental tropes as the characters wrestle with the stress of the situation. The screenplay allows things to get thorny as the children’s future becomes increasingly uncertain. Excellent performances from both the adult and child actors. B
Stone Fruit (2020, US). Divorced husbands take a pre-scheduled vacation trip. Their travelling companion gets stuck in the middle of their arguments. One husband is so rude that it’s unclear why anyone would talk to him, much less marry him. There’s no closure, though that seems to be the point. C
A Skeleton in the Closet (2020, Argentina). Son visits his estranged family and uncovers a scandal. They’re keeping it quiet and expect him to do the same. But it doesn’t affect him so the stakes remain low. The cast has a prickly chemistry but their conversations grow monotonous. C+
Drawn Back Home (2020, US). City boy visits his hometown and reconnects with the friend he left behind. This is an amateur project. The script is overwritten and the performances are rough. But the leads find the truth in their prickly conversations. C-
Rurangi (2020, New Zealand). The first season of the web series was compiled into a 90-minute film for the festival. Trans activist (Stellar work from Elz Carrad) returns to his home town after a decade away. He must reconnect with his estranged father and high school friends. Their reactions aren’t quite what he expected. The artists create a fantastic group of characters that I want to see more of. A
(Header Image is of Elz Carrad and Arlo Green from Rurangi.)
After Forever (2018-2019, US). Web series about a grieving widower whose friends insist he date again. The dating conversations grow ridiculous and dominate the first season. By season two he’s met someone but his husband’s memory haunts him like in Blithe Spirit. Strong actors carry middling writing. C
Family Members (2019, Argentina). Estranged siblings go on a journey to scatter their late mother’s remains. It doesn’t go as planned. She copes with spirituality. He copes by working out. They keep each other sane with deadpan banter. The actors find the hearts in the surly pair. A slow burning character study with a hint of romance and a splash of the macabre. B-
Give Or Take (2020, US). When a wealthy man dies his yuppie son (Jamie Effros) and working-class boyfriend (Norbert Leo Butz) fight over his house. The men are too hurt to realize how much they have in common. Their kitchen sink drama gets interrupted by a wacky realtor (Cheri Oteri) and a stable of comic relief neighbors. This gives the film a case of tonal whiplash. C+
Single Street (2019, The Netherlands). Workaholic surgeon loosens up with the help of her gay best friend. He has a life outside of her but it’s mostly kept off screen. The tired GBF tropes are presented with zero irony. The chemistry of the leads lifts it above the syrupy writing. C
Sublet (2020, Israel). Uptight writer (Jon Benjamin Hickey) sublets from a wild local film maker (Niv Nissim) in Tel Aviv. Their Odd Couple friendship begins as a list of cliches. Hook-ups and MDMA vs. monogamy and sleeping pills. Once the writing relaxes the actors are able to explore the subtle mix of amusement, curiosity and attraction. B
Most of the films I reviewed at Reeling 2019 are now available on streaming. I trust the highlights from this fall will be up in 6-8 months. Which ones will you seek out? Are there other upcoming LGBT+ films you’re looking forward to?
For more reviews of LGBT+ media click here.