Home Entertainment Queer Thriller Will Leave The Audience With More Questions Than Answers – Deadline – Billionschannel

Queer Thriller Will Leave The Audience With More Questions Than Answers – Deadline – Billionschannel

Queer Thriller Will Leave The Audience With More Questions Than Answers – Deadline – Billionschannel

Femme, a queer thriller written and directed by Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choo Ping, had its premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival and stars George Mackay and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett. The film explores the price of vengeance, the toll it can take on the psyche, and how that pressure can lead to some questionable decisions that may leave the viewer looking for explanations for these character’s actions.

Jules (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) Is a drag performer in East London under the name Aphrodite Banks. When taking a quick trip to the store after a show, he runs into Preston (George MacKay) a street thug covered in tattoos who mocks the way Jules is dressed (as they are still in drag costume and make up). He rightfully defends himself against this homophobic outburst, but it results in Jules getting stomped out by Preston and left in the street. Months go by and the trauma of the beating still lingers so Jules goes to a gay bathhouse. There he sees his abuser all grumpy and angry that he is trapped in his toxic masculinity and unable to be who he really is. 

After some exchanged glances in the locker room, Jules follows Preston to his car, and they ride off to his apartment where they have sex. On their second outing, this rough and gruff man is a lot calmer and relaxed, and even flirts with Jules which confuses him, but also peaks his interest. As the duo continue to meet up, is the victim developing Stockholm Syndrome?  Or is this all a plan to enact revenge? 

Femme creates an environment that feels lived in (thanks to production designer Christopher Melgram) and depicts the overarching lifestyle of queer folks fairly accurately. The flamboyant personalities, the shows, fashion, the space, lighting, community, it’s all there. This is only enhanced by Freeman and Ping’s direction, and the soft, velvety visuals of James Rhodes’ cinematography which reminded me of watching a Gaspar Noé movie. Together, the three provide mood and visual tension with a combination of intense close up and long shots that fosters the connection and disconnection between Jules and Preston, and how they come from different worlds. All of these elements make the film smolder with sexual energy–which couldn’t have been accomplished without the lead performances.

MacKay is one of the few Hollywood actors taking REAL risk. He’s played a  man who thinks he’s a wolf (Wolf), Ned Kelly (True History of the Kelly Gang), and a World War I soldier (1917) , and now a thugged out drug dealer. I respect him for challenging his abilities, range, and fearlessness to take on roles–from the prestigious to the peculiar. Stewart-Jarrett gives the most memorable, albeit short performance in Candyman 2021, and loved him in HBO Max show genera+ion. When he enters a scene, he fills with a quiet charm that’s never disingenuous. Femme’s greatest hindrance is its story.

Gay angst is one of the oldest  tropes in queer cinema. Not saying this to invalidate this experience, because tropes come from some form of reality, but these narratives often feature a femme presenting character that suffers because masculine men refuse to let go of their internalized homophobia. Add to that the power dynamics, and racial implications which reads as slightly tone deaf, especially because Jules isn’t fully actualized. By the film’s conclusion I realized I didn’t know much about this person because they don’t get to exist outside their suffering. However, there is plenty to remember about Preston: he’s a thug, sells drugs, has a temper, is in the closet, and has a submissive kink.

Within the walls of Freeman and Ping’s script, there is a unique examination of revenge and retribution. By the end of the Femme, Jules has reversed the roles and turned Preston into a submissive lover by using his feminine charms to soften this hardened exterior. At least it’s not 100-percent the same type of queer story we’ve seen over and over again. The best revenge is standing in your truth and letting people see the real you–and had the movie ended there, it would have ended strong. But by the time the credits rolled, and Jules is hugging that hoodie, I wondered, how much did this fight skew reality for him? Trauma does do that, but why can’t this character’s arc conclude with a sense of self preservation? 

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