After Moonlight’s triumphant (if turbulent) Oscar glory this year, countless pundits questioned whether it marked the emergence of a trend, or a one-off moment in the spotlight for artful, queer filmmaking. If the strength of 2017’s slate of LGBTQ cinema is anything to go by, it’s the former, with classics emerging across the spectrum of international cinema. With God’s Own Country, an exploration of a relationship between a Yorkshire sheep farmer and a Romanian migrant worker by director Francis Lee, opening across the UK on September 1, AnOther delves into five further highlights examining queer relationships on film, released over the coming months.
1. The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (above)
David France’s Oscar-nominated How to Survive a Plague was a furious paean to the efforts of the 80s’ AIDS activists – a grassroots tale with global implications. Netflix’s The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson swivels the spotlight deservedly to Johnson, who spearheaded STAR (Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries) in NYC’s Greenwich Village. France’s documentary plays out like a ‘whodunit’, weaving together testimonies that question the claim that Johnson’s death, in 1992, was a suicide. This loving re-examination of her legacy not only helps reinstate Johnson’s status as an LGBTQ icon, it assesses how much (or how little) progress we have made in the years that have elapsed since.
2. A Fantastic Woman
Chile has emerged as a lightning rod for international cinema in recent years, not least due to Pablo Larraín’s (Jackie, Neruda) auteur status. A Fantastic Woman, directed by Sebastián Lelio, joins the ranks of contemporary Chilean classics in its measured, moving account of a young transgender singer whose relationship with an older man throws up casual bigotry and film noir-style thrills when he abruptly dies. Making an immediate star of transgender lead Daniela Vega, it was dubbed “a timeless trans tale that stands alongside Almodóvar”. Could there be a more alluring byline?
3. Beach Rats
Worlds away from the Instagram-friendly backdrop of Fire Island, Frankie, 19, scours the Brooklyn boardwalks in search of a fix. Harris Dickinson, a UK-trained fresh face, won plaudits at Sundance for his tacit, tightly wound take on a straight-acting high school grad wanting more than the chatrooms and amusement arcades that he frequents have to offer. Subverting most ‘coming-of-age’ clichés, debut director Eliza Hittman instead opts for cinema vérité, a lo-fi look at Frankie’s fruitless search for a high.
4. God’s Own Country
It’s difficult to understate the impact Brokeback Mountain had in Hollywood more than a decade ago, yet we often manage to do so; two A-list stars on the cusp of superstardom, jettisoning studio offers in favoure of this short story adaptation, at a time when ‘playing gay’ was still perceived as career suicide. Now arrives God’s Own Country, somewhat glibly dubbed Yorkshire’s Brokeback equivalent, tracking Johnny, a staunch, young Yorkshire farmer, whose schedule of fitful sexual trysts and casual binge drinking is upended by the arrival of Romanian farmhand Gheorge, giving new meaning to ‘rolls in the hay’.
5. Call Me By Your Name
After the elegant hedonism of I Am Love and A Bigger Splash, Luca Guadagnino rounds out his trifecta of Mediterranean-set beauty with Call Me By Your Name, which was met with rapturous reception at 2017’s Sundance. As though seduced by the dappled sunlight and sprawling villas of northern Italy themselves, critics spared no hyperbole on its release, calling it a queer masterpiece. Chronicling 17-year-old Elio’s (Timothée Chalamet) brimming obsession with 20-something student Oliver (Armie Hammer) across a bittersweet summer, it already ranks with Carol and Moonlight in the canon of queer classics. Plus, Sufjan Stevens composed the soundtrack, and its most talked-about scene features some fruit foreplay that will forever alter your use of the peach emoji.
God’s Own Country is released in cinemas nationwide, September 1.