Grapeshot Film Review Round-Up: Queer Screen

0
363

Restless Love 

Words || Charlie Zada

Restless Love is all about the love we want but not necessarily the love we need, the love we get and don’t get, the love we have and don’t have for each other and ourselves. It features thirty-somethings Julia, Maria Laura Nogueira

Diego (Thiago Pethit) and Micaela (Renata Gaspar) living in Sao Paulo– three friends who are lost and at a crossroads, unsure on what to do. Julia is trying desperately hard to convince herself and everyone else everything is okay as her life unravels, Michaela is struggling with self worth and with trying to convince her girlfriend to go public with their relationship and then there is Diego who is resisting calls by his boyfriend Juan to be monogamous.

Though admittedly it does start with Julia – the boring main character – and her conventional love life problems, ‘Restless Love’ does something interesting with her. Her story surprisingly evolves to become a more nuanced exercise in self-love, as both her friends and family push her to admit sometimes things are just not okay.

In another surprising move, this film also doesn’t shy away from the highs and lows of both their friendships and the romances. We get treated to an uncomfortable scene of Julia writhing on the floor languishing over the awful turn her life has taken, Michaela sitting on her bed in nothing but her underwear as she grapples with her anxiety while Diego drinks himself into a messy drunken stupor to avoid his problems. We see them fight each other, push each other’s buttons with witty quips and in one scene where I’m sure queer watchers will get a sense of catharsis from, Diego angrily reminds Julia of all the straight privileges she has despite the problems she faces. Conversely, we see loving tender scenes between the three as they try to support and encourage each other.

This isn’t an open and close film and in eschewing a clear-cut ending, ‘Restless Love’ makes these characters all the more human. Sometimes, problems just don’t get solved. Sometimes things are just left in the air and sometimes there is power in accepting that not every problem has to have a solution. It’s a touching notion and it’s one the film holds tightly to, all the way to its ending.

4/5

Screwed

Words || Cameron Colwell

Bland, slow, and cosmically clunky in the way that it tries to pass off melodrama as anything but laughable, Screwed is a Finnish drama film about Miku (Mikko Kaupilla), a seventeen year-old on holiday with his parents and also the product of gays being told too many times a good queer character is one who “just happens” to be gay. At the lakeside cottage house where he is spending his summer,  Mike struggles with bickering parents, a rebellious older brother, and the edgy-seeming but ultimately just as bland Elias (Valtieri Lehtinen). who is staying in the cottage next door.

Pretty, but lacking any real defining characteristics beyond his shyness and doe-eyed affection for Elias, Miku’s naivety and silences are supposed to make him a sweet and likeable young man, but instead just make him boring to watch. When there’s the five-second long portions of the film where Miku is staring off into the scenic distance, we’re not wondering what depth he’s hiding, we’re wondering when the film will hurry up. Not to say it’s either of the actor’s fault: Both Lehtinen and Kaupilla make valiant attempts at wrestling some poignancy out of the script, but it’s just too anaemic to leave an impression.

1/5

Call Me By Your Name

Words || Angus Dalton

I walked into a screening of Call Me By Your Name vaguely aware that there was a ‘scene where a guy fucks a peach’, in the words of my friend who had seen the movie a few weeks prior at the Sydney Film Festival. That’s about all I knew about the film, which was adapted from André Aciman’s 2007 novel of the same name.

It opens with shots of a large house among orchards of apricot, with the words ‘Somewhere in Northern Italy’ scrawled somewhat whimsically across the screen. From there, we meet Elio, a handsome 17-year-old who watches on as a car rolls up and a tall, broad, classically Ken Doll-attractive American steps out.

Elio’s father is a professor who hosts a grad student for six weeks each summer. He and his wife warmly welcome the American, Oliver, and Elio is charged with showing their new guest around.

I’m usually not a patient audience member, but I could’ve sat in front of the screen and watched Elio laze beside a fountain pool reading, ride his bike with Oliver around the small town nearby, and swim in the river with the locals for hours on end. About 30 minutes in I felt like I had been transported to all-expenses paid holiday in northern Italy.

When an attraction starts to be insinuated between the seemingly arrogant Oliver and the musical, precocious Elio, at first I felt slightly resistant. In the novel, Elio is 17 and Oliver is 24, which isn’t all that drastic, but the age gap in the film version seems exaggerated by the casting of the fine-featured and slight Timothée Chalamet next to the tall, broad-shouldered Armie Hammer. (Apparently Oliver was going to be played by Shia Labeouf, but he dropped out of the production, thank god.)

However, it’s Elio who initiates their physical relationship, and their love story is evoked with an almost hesitant tenderness that’s totally convincing. I was adamant that the two needed to get together and move to a cabin in Tuscany and live together forever or I was going to have a mental breakdown as I left the cinema.

But of course, all summers come to an end, and their inevitable separation hits hard. What’s interesting is that as I watched them fall in love and be physically intimate in public, I was  waiting for the moment that they got punished for their love. I waited for Elio’s father to find them together and beat the hell out of him. I waited for a kiss in a public square to result in violence. When Elio gets a nosebleed at a leisurely lunch in the garden, I was sure it was the precursor to some terrible chronic disease and Oliver was going to be forced to watch his new lover die.

So ingrained in popular media is the idea that gay love, once free from repression, must be then be brutally punished (see Moonlight, Brokeback Mountain, A Single Man) or stricken with grief, that in part I couldn’t quite relax back into the movie once Elio and Oliver’s love affair became apparent. The film is gentle, and the only heartbreak comes in a realistic, inevitable sense, but I filled in the gaps with imagined horrors because I am so used to seeing gay people getting hurt or sick on screen.

I’d like to assure you that this love story sets itself apart from all that. Lose yourself in this immersive summer romance, enjoy the tension, the music by Sufjan Stevens, and the notable performance from Michael Stuhlbarg as Elio’s father, who not only physically resembles the Robin Williams, but delivers a performance with a warmth and wit that reminded me of the much-loved late actor.

 Call Me By Your Name is an absolute joy. It won’t be available in cinemas for a few months, but catch it at a festival if you can, and read the original book by André Aciman while you wait.

Oh and also, the peach-fucking scene isn’t that weird.

5/5