As for LGBTQ cinema in 2016, it wasn’t just Moonlight.
South Korean director Park Chan-wook’s sumptuously sensual adaptation of Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith (transferring its setting from Victorian England to early 20th century Korea) is mesmerizing in its seductive oddness. An ever-twisting tale of deceit and forbidden lust between a sly conman, a wily pickpocket and the beautiful heiress they are both trying to seduce, this finely-crafted feast for the senses continuously unfolds, revealing layer after layer of riches, notably the already infamous bathtub scene; never before has a bit of impromptu dentistry been so erotic. (9/10)
|"Is this covered by my dental plan?"|
It is always a joy to discover hidden gems like this smart, bittersweet comedy/drama, SNL scribe Chris Kelly’s semi-autobiographical feature film debut. Jesse Plemons plays a New York comedy writer whose return home to Sacramento to help his dying mother is also an escape from life for him, even if he is forced to reconnect with his father, who has yet to accept him as a gay man. As the cancer-stricken mom, Molly Shannon shows she has some remarkable, previously unseen dramatic chops. (8/10)
|"I drink your milkshake"|
After his family moves into his recently deceased grandfather’s Brooklyn apartment, the quiet and arty Jake becomes fast friends with the outgoing Tony, the son of the tenant who rents out the apartment’s lower level for her struggling dress shop. Problems arise for both families when Jake’s parents have to evict Tony’s mother. Continuing his run of thoughtful character pieces such as Love is Strange, out writer/director Ira Sachs delivers a quietly moving exploration of the fleetingness of friendship. (7/10)
|Boys in the 'Hood|
Told in three distinct parts throughout the life of its main character, Barry Jenkins’ muted, tender meditation on what it means to be a man centers on Chiron, a black boy/teenager/man grappling with his inner desires. From his childhood with an emotionally abusive mother (Naomie Harris) to an act of violence that changes his life forever, the film closes with the protagonist finding something he never had before: hope. Mahershala Ali is quietly powerful as an unlikely father figure, but it is the performances of the trio of actors that play Chiron — Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes — that will stick with you. (8/10)
Like Moonlight, Spa Night explores a previously underrepresented ethnicity in LGBTQ cinema, in this case Asian, through the story of a young man coming to terms with his burgeoning attraction to men. In order to help his financially struggling family, David secretly gets a job at a local all-male spa. His eyes are quickly opened to “what really goes on there”, i.e. lots and lots of anonymous gay sex, which he finds alternately fascinating and disturbing. Joe Seo gives an impressive, heartbreaking performance as the conflicted youth. (7/10)
|"It's like a sauna in here."|
Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.