Following up his sexy and visionary “A Bigger Splash,” Italian auteur Luca Guadagnino sets his sights on André Aciman’s beloved 2007 novel about an affair between a teenage boy and his father’s research assistant (played by Armie Hammer). Reviewing for IndieWire, David Ehrlich wrote that the film “rates alongside recent LGBT phenomenons ‘Carol’ and ‘Moonlight,’ matching the artistry and empathy with which those new masterworks untangled the repressive desire of same-sex attraction.” The critical response has been similarly glowing so far, making it one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year — gay or otherwise. (This author can’t wait to see it.)
The father of queercore, Bruce La Bruce, blessed his disciples with a sultry sex comedy ripe with satire and replete with enough nuns’ habits and schoolgirl uniforms to satisfy all sides of the queer divide. An injured boy dissident hides in the basement of a lesbian separatist commune whose only goal is to smash the patriarchy by having tons of lesbian sex. High camp meets high femme in La Bruce’s homage to female domination, exquisitely rendered with bold colors and brash women. With a slip of the wimple, he also happens to critique binary views of gender while simultaneously glorifying the divine feminine.
Stephen Cone’s stirringly personal drama about a teenaged girl who spends the summer with her aunt in Chicago is one of the most sensitive portrayals of female sexuality in recent memory. Cyd (Jessie Pinnick) is sexually curious in the most casual way, diverting herself equally with the genderqueer barista and the muscled gardener boy. Miranda (Rebecca Spence) spends her days writing and reading, perfectly content to live a sexless intellectual life. The film’s triumph is in never pinning its characters down, and allowing for grey areas while still holding them accountable for their actions. Beautifully shot by Zoe White, “Princess Cyd” is a lush film about the joys and limitations of intimacy.
Set in Yorkshire farm country against a gorgeously austere landscape, “God’s Own Country” is a delicately rendered gay romance that unfolds with verité intimacy. The tense relationship between Johnny (Josh O’Connor) and Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) softens as the young men birth lambs on a hillside together. Filmmaker Francis Lee bolsters the unfolding drama with documentary-like farm footage, leaving little to the imagination except the boys’ true feelings. It will undoubtedly draw comparisons to “Brokeback Mountain,” but with one key difference: A happy ending.
While we can’t wait for Ingrid Jungermann’s whip-smart feature-length debut to finally hit theaters this summer, the fact that it took so long to do so after its warm critical reception is downright criminal. Criminal, the subjects of this witty whodunnit that puts two true crime podcasters at the center of the murders they have been chronicling. An impressive jump from the creator of the cult-hit web series “The Slope” and “F to 7th,” “Women Who Kill” is a lesbian murder mystery out for blood.
27-year-old Iranian filmmaker Anahita Ghazvinizadeh headed into her Cannes feature debut with the blessing of none other than Jane Campion, having caught Campion’s eye when her short film won the Cinéfondation Award in 2013. An evocative coming-of-age about a genderqueer child under the care of their sister and her Iranian boyfriend for a week, “They” pays homage to the great Abbas Kiarostami while rooted firmly in the future.
As the number of tragic murders of black trans women continues to rise, David France’s documentary about transgender rights activist Marsha P. Johnson is an invaluable record of queer history. Legend has it that Marsha threw the first brick at the historic Stonewall uprising, now commemorated every year during Pride celebrations around the country. She was a transgender woman before the language was established, using both she and he pronouns. The film tells the story of her activism through the lens of her mysterious death, which was ruled a suicide by the NYPD although those her knew her suspect foul play. France saved precious archival footage from the trash bin, sending researchers around the country to uncover never-before-seen film of Marsha and her comrades. Following the activist Victoria Cruz as she attempts to uncover the truth behind Marsha’s cruel fate even while her organization is barraged with fresh tragedies, this film is couldn’t be more urgent.
Alan Cumming plays a troubled artist stuck in the past in this moving drama from Vincent Gagliostro. An artist and activist himself, Gagliostro based Cumming’s character on himself, which is what makes the film so vulnerable. Through the May/December relationship between Max and Braeden (Zachary Booth), Gagliostro explores the juicy territory of intergenerational bitterness and reverence in the gay community. The AIDS epidemic remains fresh in Max’s mind, while Braeden is happy to sleep around town with hardly a care in the world. Questions of aging, activism, sexuality, and queer history abound in this ambitious work from a vital gay voice.
Renowned gay nightlife impresario Susanne Bartsch gets a fittingly fabulous tribute in this documentary from filmmaking duo Anthony&Alex. For decades, Bartsch has ruled New York’s club scene with a latex-clad fist, bringing the closest approximation of Studio 54 realness that remains in this rapidly changing city. Through interviews with RuPaul, Michael Musto, Amanda Lepore, and archival footage from her wedding to gym steward David Barton, the film goes behind the scenes with the fabled figure. Through sheer force of will, the filmmakers gained unparalleled access to Bartsch’s world, revealing how she has managed to stay “Susanne Bartsch: On Top.”
Following her debut feature, “It Felt Like Love,” which concerned a young girl’s sexual exploration, Sundance regular Eliza Hittman applies the same urgent intimacy to a teenage boy’s bodily yearnings in her impressive sophomore effort. Hailing from Brooklyn, Hittman is known for casting a wide net when searching for actors, imbuing her films with the kind of bristling authenticity for which her hometown is known. With a star-turn performance by newcomer Harris Dickinson, “Beach Rats” fulfills the promise of “It Felt Like Love,” and then some.
The legacy of Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King Jr.’s right-hand man and organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, was largely forgotten by history because he was openly gay. For a comprehensive history of Rustin’s legacy, be sure to watch 2003 documentary by Nancy Kates and Bennett Singer, “Brother Outsider: the Life of Bayard Rustin.” This year, Matt Wolf’s “Bayard and Me” reveals another side of Rustin (who died in 1987). The moving short is told through the eyes of Rustin’s much younger boyfriend, Walter Naegle, whom Rustin adopted in the 1980s in order to legalize their partnership. It’s a beautiful love letter to this seminal figure, and a compelling reminder of the hard-earned rights LGBTQ people enjoy today.