Tuesday, April 23, 2024

“FEMME”

THE STORY – Jules is targeted in a horrific homophobic attack, destroying his life and career. Some time after that, he encounters one of his attackers in a gay sauna and wants revenge.

THE CAST – Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, George MacKay, Aaron Heffernan, John McCrea & Asha Reid

THE TEAM – Sam H. Freeman & Ng Choon Ping (Directors/Writers)​

THE RUNNING TIME – 99 Minutes


Diversity of perspective has always been an important avenue to pursue these days, or at the very least, an aspect of the industry that has been championed quite a bit. The doors that open to new viewpoints can give light to novel outlooks and commentaries that may go unrepresented. It’s even more fascinating when such spotlights are crafted around explorations that may not always have the broadest appeal. These are stories that lift an unseen aspect of society to expose the complicated arenas they operate within. This can lead to an exploration of a fully dimensional world that one is eager to mine. “Femme” dives head-first into an environment littered with difficult emotions and arduous conversations of morality, making it a compelling exercise.

The focus of the film starts with Jules (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), a fierce drag performer working in the underground stages of London. After one performance, he encounters a group of young men who hurl insults at him in a convenience store. After throwing a few barbs back, the violence escalates, and Jules is brutally attacked. Months later, Jules is still reeling from this trauma and finds it challenging to move on from the event. When he decides to make a trip to a bathhouse, he makes a frightening discovery. One of his attackers is there but does not recognize Jules out of drag. He takes this as an opportunity to get closer to Preston (George MacKay) in an attempt to seduce him to the point where one of their sexual rendezvous can be filmed and posted online as an act of revenge. Yet, as more time is spent between them, the complex feelings each has for the other begin to form, leading to another aggressive catharsis that simmers beneath the surface.

Directors Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping manage to create a captivating atmosphere that fully utilizes this dark underbelly being explored. The sense of place that envelopes one in this landscape is full of vibrant, heated passion that preys on the conflicted motivations of these characters. The dynamic between Jules and Preston is an intricate dance of repulsion and desire, and the storytelling successfully manages to tread these waters to showcase the layers of this relationship. The narrative thankfully never presents Preston as an object ready to receive forgiveness; instead, it paints the portrait of an angry, closeted man who cannot be allowed to live the way that can grant true happiness. Jules, similarly, is not meant to bestow such absolution to his attacker but instead, come to understand the humanity that was not reciprocated on that fateful night. The lines that connect these two individuals are not clean, which is precisely what makes them such engrossing figures to observe.

The two central figures are inhabited by their actors with a riveting ferocity. Stewart-Jarrett captures both the strength and vulnerability within Jules, portraying the damaged soul that still yearns to unleash a buried strength in an effort to reclaim control. The attraction to Preston is full of intrigue, calculated in its efforts to lay a trap but also illuminated by the humanity that begins to peek through the cracks. The emotional navigation is a great example of Stewart-Jarrett’s abilities. MacKay is an actor who has long demonstrated his talents, and this particular outing is one where he is tasked to elevate the characterization from the page. The depth of this role is not great, with backstory details kept to a minimum and motives fairly obvious. Still, as always, MacKay is able to breathe life into him with a terrifying screen presence that slowly gives way to a softer interior that is reluctant to come out. The two make an alluring pair that drives much of the tension and manifests a powerful impact.

While this narrative is often absorbing, it occasionally finds itself in minor tangents that distract from the more interesting elements of the story. The conversations Jules has with his two friends/flatmates provide an oasis from the darker subject matter, but they are weakly deployed tangents that slow the momentum. Credit to Antonia Clarke and John McCrea for delivering serviceable turns for material that isn’t as moving as the rest of the piece. Similar sentiments are felt for Preston’s gang of friends, though Aaron Heffernan infuses a sinister aura in his appearances. One might also take issue with bypassing any commentary on the racial dynamics at play. However, the film has a firm understanding of recognizing the true conflict between those living in the shadows and those attempting to break free and step into the light.

“Femme” offers an examination into lives that are shattered by one another and the attempts to reconcile the decisions to rebuild a stronger persona. The foundation has the potential to turn problematic in many instances, yet the strength of the storytelling manages to avoid such pitfalls. If anything, it could skirt closer to the edge of controversial topics regarding sexual appetites and taboo yearning. Still, what is presented is an arresting display, with solid filmmaking and a pair of enthralling performances to guide one through perilous terrain, resulting in an enriching journey full of trauma and a revelation of the power of self-identity.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and George MacKay's performances are wholly captivating, offering riveting and complex portraits. The filmmaking and storytelling create an engrossing dynamic that showcases the complicated moral terrain in a fascinating way.

THE BAD - Some of the side characters are weak tangents that slow down the film's momentum and feel more like a distraction.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 8/10

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Josh Parham
Josh Parhamhttps://nextbestpicture.com
I love movies so much I evidently hate them. Wants to run a production company.

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Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and George MacKay's performances are wholly captivating, offering riveting and complex portraits. The filmmaking and storytelling create an engrossing dynamic that showcases the complicated moral terrain in a fascinating way. <br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Some of the side characters are weak tangents that slow down the film's momentum and feel more like a distraction.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>8/10<br><br>"FEMME"