There aren’t that many movies about British black lesbians, so this film has an underserved and worthwhile subject going for it to start with. The film follows JJ (T’Nia Miller), a self-described ‘butch dyke’ who’s trying to find love and happiness in London.
She spends much of her time hanging around with gay best friend Seb (Kyle Treslove), who also acts as her assistant in her wedding photography business. JJ starts to date the more lipstick lesbian Elle (Robyn Kerr), although the road to true love certainly doesn’t run smooth. Elle is rather temperamental, takes umbrage at JJ’s friendship with Seb and has a few secrets about what she does for a living.
As often with low-budget gay-themed films, there are a few rough edges to Stud Life, but it’s better than most. It tells an interesting story that really tries to explore contemporary lesbian life in London and the challenges faced by LGBT women who don’t fit the feminine mould, from getting abuse on the streets to dealing with other people’s assumption. That said, if you’re one of those people who riles against the idea of putting people being in boxes, you may not like the film’s occasional tendency towards typing people into what sort of gay or lesbian they are. It could have been a lot worse on this score though.
I also wasn’t a big fan of JJ’s YouTube style vlogs, which allow her to directly address the camera about her life. It struck me as a slightly cheap way to get the themes and ideas across to the audience, but again, many gay-themed movies have done a lot worse, normally by just getting their characters to blurt out every thought on their mind with absolutely no thought about reality. At least vlogs have a logic to them.
However what really comes across about Stud Life is its sincerity. It’s a watchable, fairly entertaining film that really wants to do more than just tell a story. Stud Life sets out it stall to look at London LGBT life, focussing on a black lesbian character but also making more general points about prejudice and modern gay life. There are moments when it gets a little melodramatic (and due to its desire to be socially relevant, I was wondering if it was suggesting lesbian relationships are inherently very tumultuous, or if the ups and down of Elle and JJs relationship are just general filmic high drama), but it still works.
A lot of credit for holding it all together must go to T’Nia Miller, who is really good as the central character, giving the film a strong core and pulling you back whenever Stud Life feels like it might be going over the edge.
Overall Verdict: An interesting, pretty entertaining look at LGBT life through the eyes of a ‘butch’, black lesbian living in London. It does a good job of trying to be authentic, even if it does have a few rough edges.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac