Queer Independent Film in the New Millennium


In the Family


In the Family


2011 American Independent Feature

Love and Family are universal, but the Law isn't.














Special Note

We included In the Family because it is such an outstanding movie. It got four stars from Roger Ebert, plus it was shown in the 2013 Ebertfest. It also has an excellent New York Times review and a 96% Critics Rating on the Tomatometer. However, it's a long movie at 2 hours 49 minutes. We'll take a 10 minute "intermission" about half way through. That will completely fill our class period for this week, so we will combine the discussion of In the Family and Tomboy next week. They have interesting similarities and some differences that should generate a good discussion about both.



Links to Reviews

Roger Ebert's review

New York Times review

Filmmaker Magazine's review


Connie's Presentations

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Other Movies in this Category that You Might Enjoy


The Sum of Us







The Sum of Us (1994)

Description from The Advocate magazine's The Top 175 Essential Films of All Time for LGBT Viewers:
The Sum of Us (1994): An adaptation of Australian playwright David Stevens's play of the same name, The Sum of Us tells the story of father Harry (Jack Thompson) and son Jeff (a young Russell Crowe) who live together and are both looking for partners. Instead of presenting the common struggling dad trope, The Sum of Us features an incredibly enthusiastic father excited about his son's search for a boyfriend. The film's second part becomes less about looking for love and more about finding it within a parental relationship when Harry has a stroke. -K.O.


The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love







The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love (1995)

Description from After Ellen's Best Lesbian/Bi Movie Poll:
Randy Dean and Evie Roy live on different sides of the tracks and on different ends of the gender presentation spectrum, and after a chance meeting at the gas station where Randy works, they fall hopelessly in love. They are forced to run away to be together, but are found out quickly by their friends and family, who end the movie arguing about Randy and Evie's sexuality while Randy and Evie embrace and kiss.

Description from The Advocate magazine's The Top 175 Essential Films of All Time for LGBT Viewers:
The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love (1995): The L Word's Laurel Holloman first won lesbian hearts as Randy, the adorable baby butch outcast who falls for Nicole Ari Parker's Evie, a beautiful, smart, popular girl with a boyfriend. Even with typical high school Mean Girl-esque odds against her, Randy wins Evie's heart and the pair fall madly into first real love. But they bump up against teen cliques, plus Randy's lesbian aunt and caretaker who thinks she should keep things under wraps, and Evie's mom, who catches them in the act! Maria Maggenti (Puccini for Beginners) directs the indie comedy that so accurately depicts the thrill of nascent love. When a stoned Randy gleefully reads aloud from the copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass that Evie gives her, their budding love affair becomes the stuff of lesbian film legend. -T.E.G.

Scott's Comments:
This movie is included in the OLLI "Happy Gay Movies" Study Group that Casey Sutherland and I will present from April 14 to June 2, 2015.


Lilies







Lilies (1995)

Description from The Advocate magazine's The Top 175 Essential Films of All Time for LGBT Viewers:
Lilies (1996): A bishop's visit to a prison to listen to the confession of a boyhood friend jailed for murder 40 years earlier unfolds into a haunting tale of lost love. The inmates act out the story of the confessor and his doomed romance with the beautiful closeted Vallier. The play within the film tells of a gay awakening, but even the female roles are acted by men because it all takes place in prison. -J.P.

Scott's Comments:
I absolutely love this movie. It is a beautiful love story, a murder mystery, a prison drama, a fantasy, an Edwardian period piece, very French-Canadian, very Catholic, a play within a movie, a transgendered story, and a psychological study in repression -- yet it all fits together wonderfully in a lyric and fascinating film. It is beautifully written and filmed with a strong Montreal based cast, in English. I strongly suggest you give it a try.


Beautiful Thing







Beautiful Thing (1996)

Description from The Advocate magazine's The Top 175 Essential Films of All Time for LGBT Viewers:
Beautiful Thing (1996): The British coming-of-age film perfectly captured the sweetness of young gay love at a time when stereotypes and fear of the AIDS epidemic dominated LGBT representations in cinema. Grounded in the reality of a London suburb in 1996, the love story of Jamie and Ste stands out for its honest and positive portrayal of gay teens who embrace their true nature and experience the beauty of first love. -J.P.

Scott's Comments:
This movie is in English. By that I mean English, not what we speak here in America. It's English from the East End of London, and the slang is a little hard to understand. Here is a Beautiful Thing Slang Guide(Microsoft Word document) . It's worth the trouble, however, as this movie pleases in so many different ways -- as a sweet gay teen love story and as a mother-son relationship story, with a bit of inter-generational satire and lots of Mama Cass. The ending is very low key, but still very significant, especially for the mid-nineties. Well worth the time.


Show Me Love







Show Me Love (1998)

Description from After Ellen's Best Lesbian/Bi Movie Poll:
In this Swedish coming-of-age story, a young lesbian with no friends and depressing life in a rundown town has a crush on a beautiful popular girl at her school. What starts as unrequited love ends in their being outed as a couple, but a vague yet positive conclusion kept us happily believing Elin and Agnes could make it through anything. A teen movie that is without cheesiness or cliched coming out moments, Show Me Love was lauded as a must-see film by straight and gay film festivals alike, including the British Film Institute, the Berlin Film Festival and GLAAD Awards.

Description from The Advocate magazine's The Top 175 Essential Films of All Time for LGBT Viewers:
Show Me Love (1998): This girl-gets-girl coming-of-age film made a splash at Cannes and caused a stir with its original title, Fucking ml - referring to insular Swedish town where the main characters live - but when the dust settled over the title, it became critically acclaimed and internationally beloved for its heartfelt, often gritty, portrayal of young love. Elin (Alexandra Dahlstrm) is the popular girl while Agnes (Rebecka Liljeberg) is the outcast lesbian at school. They bond over their frustration with life in their tiny town and eventually fall in love. Elin struggles a bit with her feelings for Agnes, but she comes around, and there's a happy ending for the young lovers in this debut film from esteemed director Lukas Moodysson (Together). It's safe to say that Show Me Love's unflinching portrayal of budding love paved the way for queer bildungsromans to come, including The Perks of Being a Wallflower and especially Blue Is the Warmest Color. -T.E.G.


High Art







High Art (1998)

Description from After Ellen's Best Lesbian/Bi Movie Poll:
High art photographer Syd has a chance meeting with her upstairs neighbor, Lucy, a former super star photographer who has retired to take care of her drug-addicted girlfriend. The two begin a professional relationship that turns sexual as they grapple with their careers and their desire for fame.

Description from The Advocate magazine's The Top 175 Essential Films of All Time for LGBT Viewers:
High Art (1998): In lesbian director Lisa Cholodenko's disarming look at addiction, ambition, love and lust, and all that comes with it starts with Radha Mitchell as Syd, a (currently) straight 20-something magazine editor. When she meets her upstairs neighbor, lesbian junkie photographer Lucy, played pitch-perfectly by Ally Sheedy, the lives of both begin to change. Lucy and her girlfriend, Greta (a fading star who is even more hooked on heroin), inhabit an exotic, alluring, and strangely elusive world that draws Syd in until she and Lucy wind up in bed (one of the best lesbian sex scenes on film) and in business, and the worlds collide in unexpected ways. -D.A.M.


But I'm a Cheerleader







But I'm a Cheerleader (1999)

Description from After Ellen's Best Lesbian/Bi Movie Poll:
This dark comedy about ex-gay conversion delivered a political message alongside several lesbian characters and a romance between Megan, the Christian cheerleader, and Graham, the sarcastic rich girl at risk of losing her inheritance. An all-star cast with quotable quips and a killer soundtrack including an unforgettable cello-laden song played during a soft sex scene, we'd be shocked if this wouldn't have landed in the top five.

Description from The Advocate magazine's The Top 175 Essential Films of All Time for LGBT Viewers:
This comedy manages to both make fun of the absurdity of efforts to "de-gay" people by sending them to organizations that claim to rid patients of homosexual desires, and make a poignant statement about the dangers of so-called sexual orientation change efforts. Lesbian director Jamie Babbit brings a poignant queer woman's perspective to the feature, which also stars lesbian fan favorites Natasha Lyonne and Clea Duvall. Ultimately, the most powerful component of this lighthearted film is the nuanced exploration of female sexuality, which has helped more than a few now out and proud ladies - this writer included - come to terms with being a feminine woman who isn't straight. -S.B.

Scott's Comments:
This movie is included in the OLLI "Happy Gay Movies" Study Group that Casey Sutherland and I will present from April 14 to June 2, 2015.


Better Than Chocolate







Better Than Chocolate (1999)

Description from After Ellen's Best Lesbian/Bi Movie Poll:
Having fallen on hard times, Maggie's mother and brother move in with her, which puts a real strain on her passionate new lesbian love affair, as her family doesn't know she's gay. Maggie is only able to keep her relationship secret for a short while, and when her mom and brother discover the truth, it leads to lots of hijinks and hugs.

Description from The Advocate magazine's The Top 175 Essential Films of All Time for LGBT Viewers:
Better Than Chocolate (1999): This Canadian production resonated with audiences thanks to its sexy leads and light touch, coming off off as just another enjoyable romantic comedy, save for a lesbian twist. High jinks ensue when a young woman tries to keep her visiting mother and brother from her new female lover, but things turn out just fine in the end. In the days of Boys Don't Cry, LGBT audiences were hungry for a queer love story that didn't end tragically, and Better Than Chocolate delivered. And who can forget that sexy yet strange body-painting scene? -N.B.


Big Eden







Big Eden (2000)

Description from The Advocate magazine's The Top 175 Essential Films of All Time for LGBT Viewers:
Big Eden (2000): In this romantic dramedy, one of the more underrated gay films, Arye Gross (from the sitcom Ellen) plays Henry, a gay New York artist who has to go back to his hometown of Eden, Mont., to care for his ailing grandfather. But it differs from other "homecoming" stories in that Henry's openly gay and the people in his hometown are not only tolerant of that, some of them are downright supportive (it's a superb gay fantasy vehicle for anyone who ever left a rural community and dreams of going home). Even better, as Henry deals with his unrequited high school crush, Pike, a quiet Native American shopkeeper (played expertly by Eric Schweig) is falling in love with him. -D.A.M.

Scott's Comments:
This is a big bear hug of a movie. It's totally unique.


Kissing Jessica Stein







Kissing Jessica Stein (2001)

Description from After Ellen's Best Lesbian/Bi Movie Poll:
An honest, organic exploration of sexual fluidity, Kissing Jessica Stein follows Jessica as she discovers that everything she is looking for in a man is contained in the person of Helen Cooper.

Description from The Advocate magazine's The Top 175 Essential Films of All Time for LGBT Viewers:
Kissing Jessica Stein (2001): Dating in any city can make you feel hopeless when it's just not going well. After a string of awful dates, Jessica Stein (Jennifer Westfeldt) finds herself intrigued by a personal ad placed by art gallerist Helen Cooper (Heather Juergensen). At first, it's all fireworks, and their relationship advances rapidly. While her relationship with Helen wanes, Jessica's flailing, neurotic nature eventually falls away, and a more confident Jessica emerges, with a goal to find true happiness on her own terms. By no means is it a model lesbian movie - in fact, the film is a more honest look at bisexuality and sexual fluidity - but it is certainly a movie that encourages exploration and self-awareness. -M.G.

Scott's Comments:
This is one of the few movies that we can recommend that actually portrays the 'B' in LGBTQ.


Lost and Delirious







Lost and Delirious (2001)

Description from After Ellen's Best Lesbian/Bi Movie Poll:
Based on The Wives of Bath by Susan Swan, the boarding school love story introduced us to three actresses we are not only familiar with but undying fans of now. It begins quite happily as a picture of young love but ends in a stunning loss that no one saw coming. It might have won some extra points for utilizing slow sad songs by Ani Difranco and Meshell Ndegeocello.

Scott's Comments:
Unusual British movie that continually holds interest. It has a slightly gothic tinge in a fully modern setting, with a story of obsession that feels achingly true for the teenage characters.


My Summer of Love







My Summer of Love (2004)

Description from After Ellen's Best Lesbian/Bi Movie Poll:
This lyrical film about a romantic friendship between earthy Mona (Natalie Press) and the privileged, dramatic and irresistible Tamsin (Emily Blunt) will remind you of the first unreliable girl you couldn't stop thinking about. Capturing all of the intensity and frustration of a teen romance that is destined not to work out, Pawel Pawlikowski's film, like Tamsin herself, is dreamy, gorgeous and erotic, but possesses an undeniable edge.


C.R.A.Z.Y







C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005)

Description from The Advocate magazine's The Top 175 Essential Films of All Time for LGBT Viewers:
C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005): This French-Canadian film about Zac, a young gay guy growing up in the '70s in a homophobic environment, is a coming-of-age story on its surface but a father-son story at its core. Gervais, Zac's father, struggles with accepting his son's homosexuality, and Zac aims to make his father proud (often failing), transforming this into a story that transcends time period or setting. C.R.A.Z.Y. was the breakout film for Dallas Buyers Club director Jean-Marc Vallee and remains one of his biggest hits, both critically and commercially. -Kevin O'Keeffe

Scott's Comments:
It's hard to find this movie, and it is very French Canadian, made solely for the Francophone audience (with English subtitles). However, it is well worth any trouble.


Imagine Me & You







Imagine Me And You (2004)

Description from After Ellen's Best Lesbian/Bi Movie Poll:
Having already solidified herself as a lesbian favorite from Lost & Delirious, Piper Perabo starred in this romantic comedy with a delightful lesbian twist. Interestingly enough, the film was first written to be straight-forwardly straight, which Piper's Rachel leaving her new husband for another man. But when that felt too conventional, the script changed and Lena Headey was given the pivotal part as a ginger-haired flower shop owner that wooed Rachel's heart, even on her wedding day. With a sweet soundtrack and feel-good ending, it's clear that AfterEllen.com readers prefer a lesbian love story that has a happily-ever-after.

Description from The Advocate magazine's The Top 175 Essential Films of All Time for LGBT Viewers:
Imagine Me and You (2005): Taking on her second lesbian role after Lost and Delirious, Piper Perabo stars in this ultimate British lesbian rom-com (think Notting Hill but with lesbians). Her Rachel is happily about to marry Heck (played with irresistible affability by Matthew Goode), but things get complicated when, on her wedding day, Rachel meets Lena Headey's even more irresistible florist Luce, and it's pretty much love at first sight. Director Ol Parker (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) delivers a sweet, funny, and thoughtful film that offers the distinctly modern ending in which girl gets girl and boy eventually understands. -T.E.G.


The Gymnast







The Gymnast (2006)

Scott's Comments:
An Olympian at the end of her gymnastics career is looking for a continuation as a Cirque du Soleil style performer. She finds a teacher and performance partner, who she happens to fall in love with. Both Connie and I really liked this movie, although it hasn't made either After Ellen's or The Advocate's lists. Dreya Weber creates a truly interesting lead character as the gymnast. It's a good lesbian story and a good story about ageing.


Were the World Mine







Were the World Mine (2008)

Description from The Advocate magazine's The Top 175 Essential Films of All Time for LGBT Viewers:
Were the World Mine (2008): If only there were a magic potion that lets you make your neighbors gay, then maybe they'd finally understand what it's like to be us. Scoring a hit at Outfest, filmmaker Thomas Gustafson makes that dream happen for a fictional homophobic town as one high school student discovers the power to turn people gay. While playing the mischevious Puck in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (naturally), he teaches the town about falling in love, without labels. -L.G.

Scott's Comments:
This is the classiest low budget musical you'll ever see. The whole movie is a riff on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, with the plot of the movie paralleling the play. Even the lyrics are Shakespeare's. Plus it has a wonderful mother-son story line, with each trying to understand and help the other through a difficult time for both. It was filmed in the Chicago suburbs with top Chicago actors. An absolute delight.

This movie is included in the OLLI "Happy Gay Movies" Study Group that Casey Sutherland and I will present from April 14 to June 2, 2015.


I Can't Think Straight







I Can't Think Straight (2008)

Description from After Ellen's Best Lesbian/Bi Movie Poll:
Written and directed by an out lesbian, this film was one of the first and best depictions of two Middle Eastern women from different backgrounds falling for one another. The follow-up to Sarif's The World Unseen had all kinds of conflicts happening for the women at its center, but never lost its way. It also made lesbian icons of the actresses.


Shelter







Shelter (2008)

Description from The Advocate magazine's The Top 175 Essential Films of All Time for LGBT Viewers:
Shelter (2008): Jonah Markowitz's gay-surfers-in-love movie Shelter is a sweet, sexy, sun-soaked valentine to true love and family values. Zach (Trevor Wright), who has pushed his art-school dreams aside to take care of his selfish deadbeat sister, Jeanne (Tina Holmes), and her 5-year-old son, Cody. Zach gets knocked out of his funk - and his closet - when his best friend's hunky older brother, Shaun (Brad Rowe), a disillusioned Hollywood screenwriter, retreats to his family's beach house to try to get his mojo back. They hang. They surf. They fall in love. They're Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello without the chastity.

Scott's Comments:
There are many movies with teenagers acting badly. This movie is about one just trying to do the right thing. Recommended.


Edie & Thea







Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement (2009)

Scott's Comments:
This movie follows two fascinating Lesbians, Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer, as they go to Canada to get married because they could not get married in New York at the time. Aged 75 and 77, they had lived together since 1962. After the filming was over, Edie Windsor brought suit for full marriage benefits -- a case she eventually won in the United States Supreme Court. This movie is a documentary, but feels more like you are a good friend just observing a loving couple's life.

This movie is included in the OLLI "Happy Gay Movies" Study Group that Casey Sutherland and I will present from April 14 to June 2, 2015.


Weekend







Weekend (2011)

Description from The Advocate magazine's The Top 175 Essential Films of All Time for LGBT Viewers:
Weekend (2011): This beautifully restrained film tells the story of two young gay British men who meet at a club, hook up, and fall in love over the course of an eventful weekend. One of the guys is introverted and half-closeted, while the other is brash, gregarious, and wears his sexuality on his sleeve; their worldviews complement each other and their chemistry is explosive. Through passionate conversations, many drug-fueled, they alternately challenge, confuse, and confound each other. It's a grown-up, no-holds-barred exploration of modern love between men, and even the sex is honest. Directed by Andrew Haigh, who's moved on to executive-produce HBO's Looking, the film well deserved its status as a critical darling. -N.B.

Scott's Comments:
The Criterion Collection has come out with an edition of Weekend. It's becoming an acknowledged classic. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 96% critics score and and 86% audience score. Those are very high for a small, independent film aimed solely at the gay male market.


Pariah







Pariah (2011)

Description from After Ellen's Best Lesbian/Bi Movie Poll:
Out writer/director Dee Rees grew her short film about Alike, a young black lesbian struggling to come out and come into her own, into an acclaimed feature that put star Adepero Oduye on the map. We follow Alike as she explores her gender expression, navigates the trials of young love and tries to figure out how to deal with her mom's homophobia and the cracks in her parents' marriage. It's not just about coming about, it's about the rich complexities of self-discovery, and it's unforgettable.

Description from The Advocate magazine's The Top 175 Essential Films of All Time for LGBT Viewers:
Pariah (2011): Pariah, a coming-of-age tale about a 17-year-old black lesbian in Brooklyn, N.Y., is a breakthrough film that is marked by a strong performance from actress Adepero Oduye, who, as the protagonist Alike, explores and eventually embraces her sexuality within an environment where the stakes of such honesty are high. When Alike finally reveals her true self to her parents, the results are both heartbreaking and hopeful. Written and directed by Dee Rees and produced by Spike Lee, Pariah was lauded by critics, who praised how it imbued the familiar narrative of coming out with a freshness and vitality that resonated with audiences regardless of sexual orientation. -D.R.


Concussion







Concussion (2013)

Description from The Advocate magazine's The Top 175 Essential Films of All Time for LGBT Viewers:
Concussion (2013): Often called a lesbian Belle de Jour by critics, in reference to the French film about a young wife who leads a secret life as an escort, Concussion is a marvel of a movie that delves deep into modern-day feminism and the realities of a post-marriage equality world. Kate (Julie Fain Lawrence) and Abby Ableman (Robin Weigert) are married with children in the New Jersey suburbs, when Abby, after an unexpected knock to the head, starts to see the world differently. Under the auspices of renovating a Manhattan apartment, she begins to have sex with other women of a variety of ages for money and pleasure. The experience is one that opens her eyes while simultaneously threatening her long-term relationship with her partner. Beautifully written and directed by first-time filmmaker Stacie Passon and produced by Rose Troche of Go Fish fame, Concussion is a feeling that leaves one reeling. -D.R.


Blue Is The Warmest Color







Blue Is The Warmest Color (2013)

Description from The Advocate magazine's The Top 175 Essential Films of All Time for LGBT Viewers:
Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013): The Cannes Film Festival made an unprecedented move in 2013 by awarding the Palme d'Or to not only the director of Blue Is the Warmest Color, a romantic drama based on the acclaimed graphic novel by Julie Maroh, but also to its leading actresses: La Seydoux and Adle Exarchopoulos. Queer women in audiences around the world relate to the story of a French teenager and her sexual awakening, which is sparked by the arrival of a blue-haired artist who helps lead her on a journey of self-discovery. But thanks to the talents of Exarchopoulos and Seydoux, this tale becomes universal, a love story that is remarkable because it shows two people braving the beautiful and brutal vicissitudes of l'amour. -D.R.


Bridegroom







Bridegroom (2013)

Description from The Advocate magazine's The Top 175 Essential Films of All Time for LGBT Viewers:
Bridegroom (2013): In 2011, Tom Bridegroom, 29, accidentally fell off a roof in Los Angeles and died. His untimely death sparked a chain of events that led his partner of more than five years, Shane Bitney Crone, to create a YouTube video that chronicled the legal and social barriers that prevented him from attending the funeral of the man he loved. The video, titled "This Could Happen to You," went viral, and its success inspired Crone to produce Bridegroom, an 80-minute documentary that further explores the couple's story. Directed by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (Designing Women), the film went on to win the Audience Award for Best Documentary Film at the Tribeca Film Festival and has since been televised on OWN and Netflix. It is a widely acclaimed love story that, for many, offers a compelling case for the necessity of marriage equality. -D.R.

Scott's Comments:
Framed by tragedy, this movie is actually a testament that true love is possible. Watch it and you too will believe.


Burning Blue







Burning Blue (2014)

Scott's Comments:
This simple, well-crafted and well-acted movie is a condemnation of the military "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Set in the 1990's, it's been called a "Top Gun Brokeback Mountain". It shines as a psychological study about coming to terms with being a gay male in a hyper-masculine environment. It is believable and well worth the time.


Pride







Pride (2014)

Scott's Comments:
This British film will have you both laughing and cheering, sometimes at the same time. Extremely entertaining, it is none-the-less based on true events during Margaret Thatcher's suppression of the Coal Miners Strike in the mid 1980's. One of the best and most enjoyable out-and-proud Gay Rights movies ever made, with an absolutely spot-on British cast.

This movie is included in the OLLI "Happy Gay Movies" Study Group that Casey Sutherland and I will present from April 14 to June 2, 2015.



Out of the Closet - LGBTQ Portrayals in Movies After the Stonewall Riots (1969)

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Connie Hossier, Instructor
Scott Badman, Instructor