Many mainstream movies about love seem to lean towards the heterosexual narrative, which makes it difficult for us to find and enjoy those about queer love. This is especially so for bisexual women, trans people, and people of colour, among others, who have fewer options than gay men when it comes to television. For the love of Gaga, where are the complex, engaging movies of queer love?
The cliché “Bury Your Gays” is widespread in commercial films and objectifying gaze in movies like Girl House, and depressing movies like A Single Guy, are rather one-dimensional. These movies are typically directed and written by cis-het-men, so it’s no surprise they turn out to be so heavily sexualized.
In addition to the hyper-sexualization, these films are often pretty upsetting. Heteronormative culture doesn’t want anything to do with characters like Carol or Elio, so society doesn’t want them on screen for too long before a pair of tits stick up or a death scene shakes up the audience. However, there are some brilliant films that do not reap the benefits of shock value while embodying the LGBTQIAP+ narrative, but they seem to be difficult to find. Just as there are ingredients common to the recipe of portraying heterosexual relationships on screen; there is a commonality in depiction and elements, lacking and unexplored in most queer relationships portrayed as well.
Observing your responses with regards to queer films that you’ve loved, we have curated a list of 7 films that go above and beyond the elemental aspects of queer cinema as we know it and show us the diverse forms that diversity takes in relating – on thematic, atmospheric and intrinsic levels.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018)
TW: conversion therapy
A coming-of-age drama by Desiree Akhavan, although set in 1993, it is a very lucid observation of sexuality in and of itself. The movie follows our lesbian protagonist, Cameron whose perception of herself is depicted as precious and ahead of her times. Despite what the characters are going through and Cameron being forced in conversion therapy, the movie doesn’t weigh down on you and this owes itself to the self-assurance Cameron has and the friends she makes along the way, who are just as much of a delight to learn from.
The Kids Are All Right (2010)
The Kids Are All Right revolves around a lesbian marriage, but it’s not about one. It’s about marriage itself, a universalized institution with universal hurdles.
The married pair are played by Julianne Moore and Annette Bening. They are parents to two kids and the kids’ want to meet their biological father (Mark Ruffalo), which introduces new challenges to their relationship. It’s a comedy that showcases the couple’s mid-life crisis, and an enjoyable film that hits you in the gut at the very end.
Weekend is a British love drama, starring Tom Cullen and Chris New as two men who meet and make love on the weekend before one of them decides to leave the country. I personally believe it traces a present-day intimacy: a fleeting sensual meeting between both souls that resists the idealized hetero model and honours the nuances of gay ordinariness.
It’s a balanced portrayal of self-exploration and relationship drama – gay or otherwise.
Tropical Malady (2004)
Keng is a soldier posted in a quaint Thai village, where the days pass slowly. Rather unspectacularly (but quite spectacularly), Keng meets a local boy, Tong, and the couple starts a nascent relationship. This according to me, is a special kind of film that’s completely bizarre, because you’re leaving the movies in a light-headed dizziness, telling the person you’re with, “What just happened in there?”
To categorize it aesthetically, this Thai gay love story is presented with visionary Jungian polish that characterizes it, or it may be that the first half is a comment on the second half. This is a puzzle. But the joy of this outlandish film does not depend on its resolution.
Laurence Anyways (2012)
“At the end of the movie, I sat in my chair and realized; I just saw my favorite movie.” – an imdb user.
If this isn’t enough to get you excited for the movie, here’s more: it has a gem of a soundtrack, phenomenal acting and obviously, every scene flows like art. The movie is about a 10-year-long relationship between a transwoman, Laurence, and her lover, Fred. Although this is central to the story, we mostly see the trials and tribulations of a relationship just like any other – because the viewer and Laurence’s dears will know her as Laurence, anyways.
Boy Meets Girl (2014)
Set in Kentucky, the movie by formula captures all of its aspects in the giddying small-town atmosphere of fervour, longing, tenderness and the tonal shifts between.
It is a sex-positive romcom, exploring the life of a transitioning young woman by navigating her several relationships, identifiable with and unique all the same. Also, the relationship with herself, braving through to her goal of becoming a famous New York designer and her refreshing questions about what identity means and does it ultimately, have to amount to or mean something?
There’s something for everyone here.
I had to put this one on the list. Many have only heard of, but never seen this movie.
To one’s surprise, it is not a mere drama but also a romance, a mingling of Radha and Sita; despite all that prevails, choosing each other and succeeding in doing so. It is a spiritual awakening to womanhood as well as of finding and becoming oneself through the warm gaze of another.
Tender touches like the pallu of Azmi’s saris paint a love loud like the sun amidst a busy mohalla in Old Dilli. What more do you need?