December is all about the holidays, but for folks who want LGBTQ stories that are not holiday focused, there are a handful of new (and old) films to stream in the final month of the year.
One In a Thousand
The romantic drama “One in a Thousand,” (on VOD November 30) from Argentina, immerses viewers in the world of Iris (Sofia Cabrera), a teenager who becomes enamored with and pursues Renata (Ana Carolina García). The young women eventually meet on a bus and soon start hanging out together. Iris, however, has heard a rumor from a friend that Renata is living with HIV. How these two young women navigate their relationship — Iris is tentative — forms most of writer/director Clarisa Navas’ meandering film. Although not much happens, “One in a Thousand” is quite compelling. There are interesting subplots involving Iris’ gay cousins, Darío (a scene-stealing Mauricio Vila) and Ale (Luis Molina), who also grapple with their sexuality. Watching these youths care for each other is gratifying. This low-key film, which is set in the projects, provides a strong sense of place as it depicts its LGBTQ characters with humanity and compassion.
The Criterion Channel is focusing on the “female gaze” this month. Among the titles by and about LGBTQ filmmakers is “Tomboy,” out director Céline Sciamma’s absorbing character study about Laure (Zoé Héran), a young girl who passes herself off as Michaël, after moving to a new home. “He” befriends Lisa (Jeanne Disson) as well as the neighborhood boys. While Laure’s mother (Sophie Cattani) is pleased at her daughter’s female friendship, she is unaware of Laure’s deception. Sciamma’s observational approach to the drama is refreshing; “Tomboy” never judges the characters and Héran gives a remarkable, natural performance in the title role.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
The gaining of self-knowledge is at the heart of “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” bisexual filmmaker Desiree Akhavan’s bittersweet adaptation of Emily M. Danforth’s novel about a teen forging her independence in the face of repression. Cameron (Chloë Grace Moretz) is sent to God’s Promise, a gay conversion therapy center after being caught making out with Coley (Quinn Shephard). Thrust into a world she resists, Cameron copes by bonding with two like-minded teens. The strength of Akhavan’s film is that it presents its characters authentically and sympathetically.
“Silent Night” may be set at Christmas, but it is not exactly cheerful fare. Four couples — including lesbians Bella (Lucy Punch) and Alex (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) — gather together for the holiday to eat, drink, and be merry, because tomorrow they are all going to die from a poison gas. The setup allows the friends, most of whom met at university, to reveal things about their love lives, and their regrets. They also tease each other, dance together, and puncture egos as tensions mount. The kids are also quite foul-mouthed — especially the anxious Art (Roman Griffin Davis, of “Jojo Rabbit”), whose parents Nell (Keira Knightley) and Simon’s (Matthew Goode) are hosting this last-night-on-earth shindig. The film starts off with some amusing banter, but it gets more serious and emotional over time. One key subplot has Art not keen to take the pill, which leads to some dramatic and moral moments. “Silent Night” is well played the entire cast, but Davis is the standout.
“Coalesce,” (on VOD December 14) is writer/director Jessé Miceli’s atmospheric feature debut set in Cambodia. The film tells three stories of economic despair that ultimately converge. Songsa (Songsa Sek) is a shy, sensitive young boy who heads to Phnom Penh to sell clothes out of a tuk-tuk. Thy (Rithy Rom) takes a job at a gay bar and joins a motorcycle club. Phearum (Phearun Eang) is a taxicab driver with a wife and a huge debt. Each character faces pressures by others and experiences reversals of fortune as they try to fulfill their dreams. Miceli’s drama effectively captures the rhythm of life for these sympathetic characters seeking personal and economic independence.
Two films by Turkish filmmakers are also out December 14. “Playdurizm” had Demir (director Gem Deger) waking up with amnesia in a brightly colored room with balloons and a pet pig. It turns out Andrew (Austin Chunn), an actor Demir idolizes, and his girlfriend Drew (Issy Stewart), live there — and now Demir does too. Drew is threatened by Demir’s attraction to Andrew, a man who “flickers like a bad TV.” What is really going on here? Deger slowly reveals how Demir’s fantasy collides with reality as a trauma has catapulted him into this too-good-to-be-true situation. “Playdurizm” is certainly ambitious and stylish, but viewers will either be fascinated or frustrated by this wild (and wildly experimental) film.
The engaging drama “Not Knowing” has teenager Umut (Emir Özden) being bullied by his water polo teammates who think he is gay. But Umut is not saying — because he feels it is irrelevant. While he is stressed out, his parents are struggling with other issues. His father Sinan (Yurdaer Okur) is grappling with changes in his workplace, and his mother Selma (Senan Kara) is contesting a will. But it is Umut’s future that becomes the focus. The film, written and directed by Leyla Yilmaz, wisely allows Umut’s undeclared sexual identity to be the thing that reveals the true nature — and morality — of the other characters who either feel threatened by or accepting of the fact that Umut might be gay. As the story comes to a head, Yilmaz delivers a quietly powerful ending.