Love is perhaps the most free thing in the world. To fall in love and be loved is one of the biggest privileges known to the human heart. And then comes acceptance – self and societal. Love is is fluid. And so is gender. It’s beyond constructs, beyond boxes. With June’s pride month beginning today, we list 20 films that deal with love and gender in a limitless fashion, those that deal with stories of the queer – stories that need to be told and those that need to be heard.
Call Me By Your Name (2017)
It’s the summer of 1983, and precocious 17-year-old Elio Perlman is spending the days with his family at their 17th-century villa in Lombardy, Italy. He soon meets Oliver, a handsome doctoral student who’s working as an intern for Elio’s father. Amid the sun-drenched splendor of their surroundings, Elio and Oliver discover the heady beauty of awakening desire over the course of a summer that will alter their lives forever.
Set during an endless Italian summer, this ravishing drama starring Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet is imbued with a sophisticated sensuality.
– Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Ennis and Jack are two shepherds who develop a sexual and emotional relationship. Their relationship becomes complicated when both of them get married to their respective girlfriends.
Brokeback Mountain is the story of how most of our lives, gay and straight, are defined by one moment in which things go gloriously and naturally right, when everything falls into place, but which is then infected by the bacilli of wrongness. Ennis and Jack, flawed as they are, do their best to resist the encroachment of that infection; they fight not just against bigotry, but dullness and mediocrity. Their story is not tragic, but heroic.
– Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
Therese Belivet works at a department store in Manhattan where she encounters the beautiful Carol. Things take an unexpected turn when Therese develops strong feelings for Carol. Source Wikipedia.
[Rooney] Mara and [Cate] Blanchett make for an unforgettable couple in a beautiful film about longing, loss and the confusion and wonder of love.
– Nev Pierce, Empire
Following Russell and Glen as their one-night stand unexpectedly turns into something far more reaching. Following a Friday night party with his friends, Russell pulls Glen at a club, and, instead of never seeing each other again, the two men spend most of the next day and the following night together.
In its matter-of-fact, tightly focused observation of two young men who find their one-night stand growing into something more serious, the movie ranges over vast, often neglected regions of 21st-century life. It is about the paradoxes and puzzlements of gay identity in a post-identity-politics era, and also about the enduring mystery of sexual attraction and its consequences.
A young African-American man grapples with his identity and sexuality while experiencing the everyday struggles of childhood, adolescence, and burgeoning adulthood. Source IMDB.
“Moonlight” is the kind of movie that can find as much to value in the tangle of arms and legs of boys fighting as it does in the baptism of a man teaching a boy to swim, the swoon of a first kiss on a nighttime beach, the spiritual communion of feeding and being fed. As wrenching as “Moonlight” can be during the most cruel, violent and self-defeating moments of Chiron’s journey, as a bold, inspiring example of poetic-humanist cinema it’s almost an ecstatic experience. “It’s all love, in this house,” Monáe’s character says at one point. The same can be said for a film of exceptional tenderness, beauty and soul.
– Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post
The Cakemaker (2017)
Thomas, a young German baker, is having an affair with Oren, an Israeli married man who has frequent business visits in Berlin. When Oren dies in a car crash in Israel, Thomas travels to Jerusalem seeking answers regarding his death. Under a fabricated identity, Thomas infiltrates into the life of Anat, his lover’s newly widowed wife, who owns a small café in downtown Jerusalem. Thomas starts to work for her and create German cakes and cookies that bring life into her café.
Thinking back on “The Cakemaker,” a terrifically impressive feature debut by Israeli writer/director Ofir Raul Graizer, I began pondering the difference between films that actually derive from novels and those which seem like they do but don’t. Graizer’s film, about a young German guy drawn to the Israeli family of his deceased male lover, belongs to the latter category.
– Godfrey Cheshire, Roger Ebert
Other People (2016)
A struggling comedy writer, fresh from breaking up with his boyfriend, moves to Sacramento to help his sick mother. Living with his conservative father and younger sisters, David feels like a stranger in his childhood home. As his mother worsens, he tries to convince everyone — including himself — he’s doing okay.
“Other People” is downright studious in how it avoids cliche and the temptation to make its audience cry.
– Alan Zilberman, The Washington Post
Beach Rats (2017)
An aimless teenager on the outer edges of Brooklyn is having a miserable summer. With his father on his deathbed and his mother wanting him to find a girlfriend, Frankie escapes the bleakness of his life by causing trouble with his delinquent friends and flirting with older men online. When his chatting and webcamming intensifies, he finally starts hooking up with guys at a nearby cruising beach while simultaneously entering into a cautious relationship with a young woman.
“Beach Rats” is a cleverly delivered gut punch for anyone still too optimistic about the state of gender politics.
– John Anderson, Wall Street Journal
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018)
In 1993 after teenage Cameron is caught in the backseat of a car with the prom queen, she is sent away to a treatment centre in a remote area called God’s Promise. While she is being subjected to questionable gay conversion therapies, she bonds with some fellow residents as they pretend to go along with the process while waiting to be released.
Chloë Grace Moretz stars in this adaptation of a popular young-adult novel about faith and sexuality, brought to the screen with empathy and tact.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017)
Filmmakers re-examine the 1992 death of transgender legend Marsha P. Johnson, who was found floating in the Hudson River. Originally ruled a suicide, many in the community believe she was murdered.
These days there’s a conspicuous show of unity in gay rights movements; “LGBTQ” fits under one rainbow-patterned umbrella. The extent to which this is equally true everywhere is something I’m not privy too. But it’s a fact that in the 1970s and beyond, non-cross-dressing gays were not necessarily eager to have trans people in the movement. The movie doesn’t shy away from this; it includes some startling footage of Rivera at Washington Square Park, fiercely dressing down a crowd at a rally. “I felt the movement completely betrayed the drag queens and street people,” she says in interview footage.
– Glenn Kenny, Roger Ebert
Sita and Radha are young Indian women whose husbands choose celibacy or mistresses over their wives. This leads them to form an intimate, passionate relationship amidst a close-minded society.
Audacious, yet sensitive, Fire may shock traditionalists but is the sort of film that ought to win Indian cinema a whole new audience.
– David Parkinson, Empire
Paris is Burning (1990)
This documentary focuses on drag queens living in New York City and their “house” culture, which provides a sense of community and support for the flamboyant and often socially shunned performers. Groups from each house compete in elaborate balls that take cues from the world of fashion. Also touching on issues of racism and poverty, the film features interviews with a number of renowned drag queens, including Willi Ninja, Pepper LaBeija and Dorian Corey.
It’s devastating to consider that so many of the subjects, who are so young in the film, are no longer alive, some due to AIDS-related illnesses. Ninja, Octavia St. Laurent and Angie Xtravaganza never made it to their 50th birthdays; LaBeija and Corey never saw 60. Venus Xtravaganza was found murdered in a hotel room during filming, and her death is a tragic, sobering moment that her mother Angie treats with a knowing sadness. But for a brief moment, they all glowed and glittered on the runway, twisting their lithe bodies into pretzel poses with ease. They were opulent. They owned everything. They burned bright and the light still hasn’t gone out.
– Katie Walsh, LA Times
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
A German emigrant living in a trailer in Kansas is the victim of a botched sex-change operation. Adapted from the critically acclaimed off-Broadway rock theater hit, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” tells the story of the “internationally ignored” rock singer, Hedwig, and her search for stardom and love.
Topping the one man/woman show was always going to be tough, and this can’t honestly claim success in that respect, but it’s still original and entertaining in its own right.
– Kim Newman, Empire
Boy Erased (2018)
Jared discovers that he is homosexual and tells his family. However, his father sends him to a conversion therapy camp where he is introduced to some questionable philosophy and methods.
Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe star in a true story about a discredited (but still practiced) “treatment” for homosexuality.
Duck Better (2018)
Two women, jaded by dishonest and broken relationships, make a pact to spend 24 uninterrupted hours together, having sex on the hour. Their romantic experiment intends to create a new form of intimacy, but it doesn’t quite go as planned.
Duck Butter is a lot — I felt dizzy upon leaving the theater, like I myself had just gone through that same wired 24 hours the protagonists did. For that, I have to give Arteta and Shawkat props.
– Emily Yoshida, Vulture
God’s Own Country (2017)
A young farmer numbs his frustrations with drinking and casual sex until a Romanian migrant worker sets him on a new path.
A dig into the nature of humanity from a director already fluent in the language of brutality and tenderness. A stunning love story that in its finest moments is pure poetry.
– Terri White, Empire
The Danish Girl (2015)
Artist Gerda Wegener asks her husband Einar to pose as a female model for a painting. Things take an unexpected turn when this act triggers Einar to reignite his suppressed identification.
You wish the film was less conventional in its approach, but it delivers so much that you can barely complain.
– Mohar Basu, Times of India
Love, Simon (2018)
Simon Spier keeps his sexual orientation a secret from his family. However, when a blackmailer threatens to reveal it, he goes on a roller-coaster journey to come to terms with his identity.
Tender, sweet, and affecting, this is the mainstream romcom that gay teens might not have even known they needed. But when they watch it, they’ll find themselves deeply reflected.
– Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
My Own Private Idaho (1991)
In this loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Henry IV,” Mike Waters (River Phoenix) is a gay hustler afflicted with narcolepsy. Scott Favor (Keanu Reeves) is the rebellious son of a mayor. Together, the two travel from Portland, Oregon to Idaho and finally to the coast of Italy in a quest to find Mike‘s estranged mother. Along the way they turn tricks for money and drugs, eventually attracting the attention of a wealthy benefactor and sexual deviant.
Mike and Scott meet a variety of clients, including one who likes his apartment kept very, very clean. They encounter a young woman from Italy. They find themselves in Italy. It is almost hallucinatory, how one can be in Idaho today and Italy tomorrow, and have no money in either place, but if you make an object out of yourself, then people with more money and stronger wills are able to take you wherever they choose.
– Roger Ebert
Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013)
A French teen (Adèle Exarchopoulos) forms a deep emotional and sexual connection with an older art student (Léa Seydoux) she met in a lesbian bar.
Abdellatif Kechiche’s “Blue Is the Warmest Color” is a feverish, generous, exhausting love story that chronicles a young woman’s wrenching and blissful attachment to another woman.
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