We at Nonchalant can’t get enough of lesbians on film. Long gone are the days when we could hope to get one lesbian period drama a year (*cough* Ammonite *cough*). Well, there is now an abundance of queer, bi and lesbian women on our screens and in the mainstream media. And if you are looking for something a little different, then welcome to Upon Her Lips: Heartbeats.
This selection of short films brings together a snapshot of different lives where female queerness and sexuality are, in the most part, in the sidelines. What makes this selection so exciting is it’s willingness to drop the usual tropes of lesbian cinema – it’s not about coming out, falling in love with straight girls or packed full with male-gaze sex scenes (*cough* Blue Is the Warmest Colour *cough*). These are human stories about relatable women and girls that are almost uncomfortably relatable at times.
Beware spoilers below…
After His Death (Acharei Moto)
The first film is After His Death (Acharei Moto). This could easily be a feature length film with it’s premise. After her dad’s death, Ayelet discovers that he had an affair with another man. Oh, and her mum knew about it the whole time. This short but bittersweet film is all about the differences between generations, contrasting Ayelet – in a happy and accepted relationship with her girlfriend – with her father, who lived a double life.
Control (Kontroll) is the sort of film in which nothing happens but everything happens. You might know what it’s like to be in a relationship and suddenly feel… weird. That’s where we are in Control. Two women reach a difficult point and they aren’t sure where things are going for them. It’s gritty, a bit spicy and – like we said – uncomfortably relatable.
A true highlight has to be Honeymoon which really has almost nothing to do with the fact that the recently married couple are lesbians. Lucy and Johanna have gone on their honeymoon – no shock there – and end up having a heated argument about a waitress. However, as Johanna is partially and Lucy profoundly Deaf, none of the other diners even notice. Ultimately, it’s as sweet and funny as it is revealing how outsiders see and treat those with disabilities. It’s a real must-watch.
Then we move onto Narciso, in which a couple, consisting of a Danish woman and her foreign lover, are navigating the inevitable uncertainty of a new relationship. Thinking she is being taught useful Danish phrases, the lover soon finds out that is far from true. This short deals with playfulness and seriousness, and a need for understanding. Again, pretty relatable right?
Next up we get two coming-of-age stories that feel pretty close to home as former queer teenagers… Molt is another example of a story that we could have kept watching. The young Cadie and her neighbour Sarah guide each other in exploring their sexuality. It’s full of tension and sweetness, as well as teenage boys being just as shitty as we remember them being when we were that age. You are left wanting to learn more about them and see how their relationship develops.
On the other hand, there is Forbidden Fruit. 15-year-old Sam lives with her overbearing mother, but a new friend, Jade, gets in the way of this pretty weird mother-daughter relationship. Sam then drugs her mum with the pills she was being forced to take and goes to meet Jade on the beach. Respect from us, Sam. This film has more mystery-drama vibes than the others and the small cast really sells it by fleshing out the characters in such a short space of time.
Initially, Bootwmn feels a little out of place alongside the other films, but give it a moment and you will realise why it is so deserving of its place and absolutely worth watching. This short documentary follows Deana McGuffin, a bootmaker from New Mexico, as she helps a Canadian artist and a San Franciscan tattooist to craft a pair of gay-themed cowboy boots. It is bold, it is brilliant, and it will get every feminist fibre in your body fired up. Bootwmn is all about queering a traditional artform and owning it in a man’s world. You will want a pair of cowboy boots after this one.
Finally, we have Buddhi Buddha. This has major “I went backpacking to find myself” energy and it doesn’t shy away from it. A woman comes home from travelling in Nepal and is catching up with an old friend. Eventually, our traveller decides to teach her friend how to meditate. One thing leads to another and we think you can guess how it ends. There is a lot to be said in this film about experiencing new things without needing to travel thousands of miles. It’s a grounded and fun film and a great way to round off this broad selection of cinema.
So if you are looking for something different or just a bit of everything, we highly recommend checking out Upon Her Lips: Heartbeats. Take it in all at once or enjoy each individual film in your own time. You will definitely find a few favourites in this diverse mix of queer stories and characters. And if you can’t get enough, there is always more in the form of previously released Upon Her Lips: Pure Feels.
Upon Her Lips: Heartbeats is available from Monday 5th July on Amazon Prime and Vimeo.