In Review: Disobedience

The saying “you can never go home again” means something different for queer folks. At best, our formative communities and family units still carry the feeling of before and after we became someone else. For those of harsher reality, a return brings it’s own consequences, a reckoning of lingering past, anxious present, and uncertain future. If this person is permitted to return at all.

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In Disobedience, the latter is closer to the truth for Ronit, a photographer and former member of an enclosed conservative Jewish community, played with tense reserve by Rachel Weisz. Her return is prompted by the funeral of her strict father to which she was estranged, but the real coming home is to her former trio unit with the doting Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) and Esti (Rachel McAdams). Dovid has risen in the ranks of the Orthodoxy as a rabbi and Esti is now his wife, creating odd maneuverability around what their group has been and how it has changed.

But the meaningful glances between Ronit and Esti tell us all we need to know about this repressed shared past. And yet the palpability of the unspoken brews questions upon questions for us until they can now more stifle themselves behind their darting eyes and hesitant sentences.

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In Review!: “Closet Monster”

Rarely are teen narratives are met with the ingenuity and inventiveness of Stephen Dunn’s Closet Monster – even rarer within specifically queer ones. Even solid recent examples (like this weekend’s The Edge of Seventeen) tend to be straightforward affairs, more often than not becoming bland in presentation. That lack in imagination bleeds over into character development, narrative point of view, and conflict resolution in ways that undermine the value of their own subject. Thankfully this is not the case with the ambitious Closet Monster.

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Dunn’s take is a coming out narrative you’ve certainly seen before with a few inclusions that make the film spark with personality and uniqueness. Oscar (Connor Jessup) lives with his father (Aaron Abrams) under the umbrella of toxic masculinity as he prepares for college and hides out as a loner. While the familiar story beats of divorce and virginity pop up, the real sparkle comes from side diversions like Oscar’s horror makeup dreams and his spirit animal / imaginary friend relationship with his hamster (voiced by Isabella Rossellini). Oscar’s trauma isn’t limited to standard bullying tropes and a macho father, but the fatal gaybashing he witnessed in youth manifests in both his self-worth and sexual anxiety. This isn’t starting to sound so familiar, is it?

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