Film Reviews

BFI Flare Short Film: Treacle (2019)

Starring: Ariana Anderson, April Kelley (also Writer)

Director: Rosie Westoff

In this short film, two friends set off for a weekend away, and after a few drinks they end up in bed together. But while for Jessie (Anderson) this is just a walk on the wild side, for Belle (Kelley), this is toying with her feelings and is more like a betrayal.

Made in collaboration with the Bisexual Resource Centre, this short film premiered at the BFI Flare, the LGBTQ Film Festival. I was so happy that April reached out to me to ask me to review this film because I have seen and reviewed her work before (see https://wildfiremotionpictures.com/2017/04/04/short-film-april-kelley-of-miniproductions-with-edith-and-annie-waits/ ) I really feel like she’s a talent to watch who has a great future ahead of her. In this film, she stars as Belle and also wrote the script.

I really like the way that the relationship between the two women is established and explored. The film takes the time to show us that these are old friends who are very natural and relaxed with each other, making jokes at each others expense, laughing over silly things, and being able to share the details of their lives and romantic relationships. There’s a point at which Jessie asks Belle if she will end up marrying a man or a woman, and Belle laughingly points out that Jessie seems to think that if she’s with a man, she’s straight and if she’s with a woman, she’s a lesbian, as though bisexuality doesn’t really exist. I like this moment, because it’s our first sign that Jessie maybe just doesn’t get it, and it’s also a conversation that I’ve heard a lot with bisexual friends being asked the same question.

I really like the way this film handles the relationship. It’s subtle, but honest, and the acting style feels very warm and natural, very real. Which means that at the end, when Jessie is awkward with Belle, I felt sad that this was probably the end of their friendship. OK, Jessie is basically a bit if a jerk who uses Belle for an experience without caring about her feelings, and I think that’s really relatable. But I did feel sad for Belle losing someone who she thought was a friend.

As April points out in the films press release, there are so few films that handle bisexuality as it really is and not as “just a phase”. Personally, I feel like there are so few films that handle female sexuality, whether gay, straight or bisexual, in a real way and not as a male sexual fantasy. But watching this film, I liked that it speaks about bisexuality and how straight friends relate to it, as well as how that betrayal of friendship feels.

What I think makes this film so successfully emotive is the natural performance style, which I mentioned earlier, and the golden Instagram-like glow of the film. The film is really nicely shot, and reminded me of a lot of holiday snaps that girls post of their holidays or weekend getaways. It draws you in because it’s pretty and the soundtrack feels cool and upbeat, but a lot like Instagram with it’s perfecting filters and flattering angles, the surface is not everything. This film explores that other side of the story, the friendship that ends, the lack of acceptance or lack of emotional intelligence. I really liked that.

Since this is a short film that played at a festival, I’m not sure where you will be able to see it, but please check out the trailer: https://youtu.be/0Y2C18cOWjU and keep an eye out for April Kelley because I think she has a really interesting career ahead of her.

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