LGBTQ streaming: what to watch in July

"L'Immiensita" is out on VOD July 11.
“L’Immiensita” is out on VOD July 11.
Music Box Films

Pride month may be over, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t more LGBTQ films to stream. Here is a rundown of six films available this month that focus on gender identity.

“Tomboy” (Criterion Channel)

“Tomboy” is an absorbing character study about Laure (Zoé Héran), a young girl who passes herself off as a boy. Writer/director Celine Sciamma (“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”) shrewdly assesses of how gender identities are formed and developed. Moving to a new home, Laure reinvents herself as Michaël. “He” befriends Lisa (Jeanne Disson) as well as the neighborhood boys, impressing the guys by playing athletic games, but also allowing Lisa to put make up on Michaël and kiss him. While Laure’s mother (Sophie Cattani) is pleased at her daughter’s female friendship — and wearing makeup — she is unaware of Laure’s deception. However, Laure’s sister Jeanne (Malonn Lévana) is in on the secret, playing along with her “brother” until an incident with one of the other kids threatens the situation. “Tomboy” features a natural, observational approach that never judges the characters. Laure/Michaël’s actions — forming a phallus out of Play-Doh to go swimming — are credible, and Laure’s mother accepts her daughter’s masculine look and behavior — up to a point. The remarkable performance by Héran makes this fine film resonate.

“Makeup” (VOD)

“Makeup” has French food critic Sacha (writer/director Hugo Andre) moving into a room in stockbroker Dan’s (Will Masheter) house in London. They are initially uncomfortable together, especially when Sacha accidentally catches Dan in drag one night. As Dan performs as “Danielle,” he injures himself during a cabaret show and fends off insults from work colleagues who witness his act. Meanwhile, the lonely Sacha finds some comfort in Dan’s company as they get stoned. “Makeup” has an amateur feel to it, but Masheter’s committed performance makes Dan sympathetic and the friendship that develops between the two strangers is sweet, even if the film itself is entirely too slight.

“Lola” (Film Movement Plus)

Lola” is an absorbing drama from 2019 about the 18-year-old trans title character (Mya Bollaers) who has a difficult relationship with her father, Philippe (Benoit Magimel). He threw her out of the house years ago; she now lives in a shelter with her gay best friend Samir (Sami Outalbali). When Lola’s mother passes, she misses the funeral because of her father and vows to have nothing further to do with dad. She also steals her mother’s ashes and breaks Philippe’s storefront window. But Philippe tracks Lola down, insisting his wife wants her ashes scattered by the sea. Philippe and Lola take a road trip to fulfill this wish and try to find some common ground. “Lola” benefits from trans actress Bollaers’ steely performance as a young woman who is haunted by the pain she experienced as a young boy, but whose clear-eyed view of who she is and wants to be drives her. Her love for her mother — who was paying for her surgeries — is palpable, and the way she handles her father is admirable. Writer/director Laurent Micheli coaxes strong work from Bollaers as well as fine support from Magimel. Philippe may never fully accept his child’s trans identity — Philippe still deadnames Lola — but he certainly develops some respect for Lola during their road trip. This may be a familiar tale, but it is well told and acted. 

“Bad Girl Boogey,” (July 4 VOD)

In “Bad Girl Boogey,” teenage trans filmmaker Alice Maio Mackay’s sophomoric effort (after “So Vam”) is another microbudget horror film that features queer youth being stalked by a killer. The film opens with a series of murders committed by whoever wears a creepy, supernaturally enhanced mask. Ten years later, the self-harming Angel (Lisa Fanto), the niece of one of the earlier victims, and her friend Dario (Iris Mcerlean) try to solve the murder of their mutual friend. Mackay films much of the action in intense closeup and “Bad Girl Boogey” features more gore than scares. The victims are all queer — Angel and her friends are bullied at school; Angel’s aunt frequented a lesbian bar — and there are connections to Nazis and satanic rituals that play up the homophobia and transphobia. But it is all more ambitious than good. Viewers will either appreciate or roll their eyes when the killer threatens: “I’m going to carve your pronouns into your fucking skull.” “Bad Girl Boogey” is that kind of film. 

“L’Immensità” (July 11, VOD)

“L’Immensità,” by trans Italian filmmaker Emanuele Crialese, is set in 1970s Rome, where Clara (Penélope Cruz) lives with her husband Felice (Vincenzo Amato), and their three children, Adriana (Luana Giuliani), Gino (Patrizio Francioni), and Diana (Mariá Chiara Goretti). Adriana, the oldest, is dressing and identifying as Andrew, which prompts whispers and disapproval from Felice, but he does form a closer connection with Clara — even though Andrew’s mother misgenders him. “L’Immensità” is told largely from Andrew’s point of view as he watches his parents’ marriage disintegrate. He also finds himself attracted to Sara (Penélope Nieto Conti), a Roma girl who lives on the other side of a reeded area near the family’s home. As Andrew acts defiantly, fighting with his father, or his siblings, he finds his strength in asserting his masculinity without shame or fear. “You and dad made me wrong,” Andrew tells his mother in a poignant scene, and Giuliani is terrific in the central role capturing his internal conflict. “L’Immensità” also features a handful of fabulous musical numbers, from Clara leading a dance while setting the table, to some infectious black and white fantasy sequences. But it is the magnetic Cruz, as a supportive and troubled mother, who will keep viewers enthralled by this episodic drama. 

“Easy Tiger” (July 11 VOD)

“Easy Tiger” is a delicate, languidly paced film chock-full of beautifully composed images. A married therapist (Mickaël Pelissier) finds himself exploring his same-sex desires when he is attracted to his deaf patient (Casper Wubbolts). They begin an affair, but it reaches an impasse when the therapist won’t leave his wife. The patient then starts to “stalk” the therapist, who tells him to leave him alone, but also has sex with him. The therapist’s emotions are meant to be conflicted, but they seem muddled; the minimalist script — which is in French, English and American Sign Language — does not do much to elucidate what the character is feeling. This leaves the attractive actors to do little more than stare blankly, something viewers may mirror as they watch “Easy Tiger.”