After the success of Peccadillo’s Boys On Film series – which has so far given us 10 selections of great short films focussed on gay men – comes the lesbian-themed Girls On Film: The First Date. The disc features nine shorts, and as with the Boys On Film releases it’s a great selection that covers a broad range of topics and ideas, taking in everything from comedy to documentary.
You can take a look at what I thought of each of the shorts below:
The First Date
Director: Janella Lacson (USA) 7mins
Two friends discuss the difficulties of getting from the first date to the second. One of them wants to go out with a woman again, but she can’t decide whether the events of their first meeting mean she should avoid asking to meet up again. It’s a simple idea which could have easily seemed trite, but thanks to its wit, some good acting and staying grounded in a believable sense of how people really are, it’s an awful lot of fun. It’s a bit like an extended sketch, and a very good one.
8 out of 10
Director: Yenni Lee (Norway) 11 mins
I just need to start out by saying Norwegian is an odd-sounding language. Now I’ve gotten that out of my system, Air Balloon is a short film with a bit of a sci-fi tinge, about a young woman who has a literal (well, actually metaphorical) box of memories, full of moments that cause her pain and which she’d like to forget. However as time passes she begins to realise the importance of memory and what it can bring to the present. Air Balloon looks gorgeous with superb production values, but in its desire to follow the indie short film rulebook, it’s perhaps a little more disjointed and unclear than it needs or wants to be. It’s still a good film, but maybe not everything it could have been.
7 out of 10
Fresh Air Therapy 2
Director: Christoph Scheerman (Germany) 16 mins
A couple meet in a hotel for what it soon becomes clear is some sort of role play therapy designed to help their relationship. However one of the women doesn’t think the other is taking it seriously enough and leaves, but neither of them may be as ‘alone’ as they think. Fresh Air Therapy 2 works by constantly making you wonder exactly what is going on. What initially looks like it’s going to be a meet-cute sketch becomes a couples drama, before taking a turn towards horror and perhaps the supernatural. But what is really going on? Although entertaining to watch, Fresh Air Therapy 2 perhaps isn’t quite as smart as it thinks it is, particularly as the resolution isn’t as good as the build-up to it.
5 out of 10
Director: Deb Shoval (USA) 13 mins
Joey is a young soldier due to be deployed to Afghanistan, but she doesn’t want to leave her girlfriend behind. Together they discuss running away together so they don’t have to be parted, however the reality of life may make it impossible to follow her dreams. With an almost documentary feel, Deb Shoval’s film manages to be very moving despite its short running time. It gives a great sense of feeling trapped in all sorts of ways – by the military, by commitments, by emotions, by lovers – and how often freedom eludes us. It’s a great little movie with an extremely affecting conclusion. In fact for my money it’s the best film on the disc.
9 out of 10
What’s Your Sign?
Director: Alex Snow (USA) 6 mins
At a party two women check out the talent, deciding who they might want to make a move on. Each of them has the same woman in mind, but very different fantasies of what they hope will happen. However when they start to use sign language, something unexpected happens. Short, sharp and witty, What’s Your Sign? manages to be both resolutely lesbian and simultaneously universal with its ideas about our hopes and desires. It plays with and challenges stereotypes while never taking itself too seriously.
7 out of 10
Director: Lucy Aster (UK) 8 mins
Two teens sit in the car with their dad, waiting for their mother to arrive. As they chat, the fact their mum’s sister may be a lesbian comes up, which may be a subject that has resonance for one of the youngsters. Smartly written and played without being too obvious or hackneyed, James Dean does a great job of looking at the family dynamics of those coming to terms with their identities. For example there’s the fear that can result from what a parent probably sees as an innocent remark and the scoping out of possible reactions. It’s nicely shaped and acted, with a great sense of naturalism. James Dean will leave you with a smile on your face.
9 out of 10
Hold On Tight
Director: Anna Rodgers (Ireland) 13 mins
Co-dependent lesbians may be a bit of a cliché, but starting out with one is smart idea for the documentary Hold On Tight, which looks at the challenges faced by gay couples if they want to show their affections in public. Following the stories of both gay men and lesbians of different ages, it gives them space to talk about their fears and about doing something as simple as holding hands in public, with the visuals contrasting their cosy intimacy at home with their often more reserved behaviour in the outside world.
It’s a wonderfully made doc about a subject that most LGBT people will have grappled with. It touches on all sorts of issues around something that should be so simple, but which becomes fraught with issues when you’re gay – whether it’s the fear of being attacked, or even whether gay PDAs automatically become political acts and whether that should matter. It’s a great documentary that crams an awful lot of thought in and will leave you wondering about your own attitude to public displays of affection.
9 out of 10
Director: Lauren Wolkstein (France) 14 mins
It’s Chloe’s 18th Birthday party, but it isn’t going well as she’s trying to avoid the advances of boys who are wondering why she’s still a virgin. Then a mysterious older American woman turns up, saying she is Chloe’s cousin. However Chloe doesn’t know who she is, although she can’t help being captivated by this stranger. After a while though it becomes difficult to tell who is playing with whom. While intriguing and watchable, as with so many French films it’s slightly difficult to work out what the point of it is. It’s also frustrating that what it seems to think is naturalism is actually a little preposterous, with my main feeling at the end being that Chloe is weird and a bit dim. I’m presuming that wasn’t the intention.
4 out of 10
Director: Diana Juhr DeBenedetti & Andromeda Godfrey (UK) 3 mins
Girls On Film ends with a very short film. As with many micro-movies, it’s essentially a joke in film form, but it’s a decent one. It should feel like a very old joke, but giving it a lesbian twist plays with your preconceptions so that you think it’s heading in one direction but it’s actually going somewhere a little bit different. It turns out to be a great little way of showing that modern gay relationships aren’t all that different to straight ones.
7 out of 10
Reviewer: Tim Isaac