With June and Pride Month having just ended, many of us have been watching a wide array of LGBTQ+ films. I am no exception and have compiled a short list of some of my favourite viewings from the previous month. I hope these reviews can offer new recommendations for fellow film enthusiasts!
Wanuri Kahiu’s Rafiki follows Kena and Ziki; two Kenyan girls living in Nairobi, whose fathers are competing for the same seat in the County Assembly. Rafiki was the first Kenyan film to be screened at Cannes and was famously banned by the Kenya Film Classification Board, prohibiting possession of the film in its native country. Nevertheless, Kahiu’s vibrant aesthetics and organic exploration of friendship and sexuality offer a positive portrayal of queer romance in the unique cultural context of Nairobi’s youth.
The Ways He Looks
The Ways He Looks is a Brazilian coming-of-age, directed by Daniel Ribeiro and based on his short film: I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone. Ribeiro’s story follows Leonardo – a blind teenager who longs for both romance and independence. Leonardo spends most of his time with his best friend, Giovanni. However, the arrival of a new student – Gabriel, disrupts the harmony of their friendship, and a complicated love triangle amongst the threesome ensues. As Leonardo navigates the world around him, The Ways He Looks not only explores queer relationships but the vulnerabilities of growing up with a disability, as Leonardo contends with both an overprotective mother and school bullies. The Way He Looks is overall, an optimistic representation of queer youth, and Ribeiro‘s concluding bicycle sequence to the soundtrack of ‘Belle and Sebastian is bound to charm any audience.
God’s Own Country
Starring Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu, Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country follow the relationship between a Yorkshire sheep farmer and a Romanian migrant. Within the film, Lee explores the strange, lonely qualities of the British countryside and the trials and vulnerabilities of its inhabitants. Praised for its lead performances, God’s Own Country was featured at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and was awarded the World Cinema Directing Award.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a historical romantic drama, set on an isolated island in Brittany in 1770. Here, our protagonist Marianne is commissioned to paint the wedding portrait of the reluctant bride, Héloïse. Located within 18th-century castles and along wind-swept beaches, Sciamma’s gorgeous cinematography and ghost-like imagery have been said to resemble a digital painting. As Marianne secretly observes Héloïse, Portrait of a Lady on Fire extends a fascinating study into both queer desire and the female gaze.
Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden is an erotic psychological thriller, inspired by Sarah Waters’ 2002 novel, The Fingersmith. Set in Japanese-occupied Korea, The Handmaiden follows the machinations of Count Fujiwara and his assistant pickpocket, Sook-hee. The pair devise a plan to manipulate and seduce the Japanese heiress – Lady Hideko, in the hopes of assuming her inheritance. Yet Lady Hideko presents a far greater and more intellectual challenge than either of the pair anticipated, and as the film progresses, audiences are presented with numerous twists, conflicting alliances, and of course, a tumultuous sapphic romance. Selected for the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2016, The Handmaiden grossed over $30 million worldwide.