Lesbian Film Guide: The Trouble with Love

by Chris Alderson

Love doesn’t always run smoothly, at times it can seem like the whole world is against it. Despite the challenges or possibly because if it, love does prevail. This week, we bring you five stories where love blooms in difficult circumstances. These heroines bravely surmount a variety of obstacles to be together.

Purple Sea (Viola di Mare)

(click image to view trailer)

On a windswept 19th century Italian island, rebellious Angela (Valeria Solarino) fears no one, not even her brutal, overbearing father. When Angela falls in love with best friend Sara (Isabella Ragonese), she wants to be with no one but her. Angela’s father attempts to force her into marriage are useless; she states that she will only marry Sara. When her father’s violence forces her into a basement dungeon, she chooses death rather than marry the man her father has chosen for her.

Angela’s mother Lucia comes up with an ingenious solution, which involves Angela becoming the son her father had always wanted. As Lucia has information that the local priest would prefer not come to light, she blackmails him into changing Angela’s sex on the birth register. Once Angela is officially Angelo, she cuts her hair, dons men’s clothing, and marries her sweetheart, Sara. Life seems idyllic for the women living as husband and wife; however, there are rumblings beneath the surface of the small community.

Based on the novel Minchia di Re by Giacomo Pilati, Donatella Maiorca brings to the screen a wonderful period piece of young love and strong female characters that challenge societal norms in order to be together. The weather beaten Sicilian coast is a breathtaking backdrop for the women’s growing passion and intense love scenes. This expertly woven drama is based on a true story.

The incredibly talented leads Valeria Solarino and Isabella Ragonese are both stunning. The chemistry between the women is so genuine that their ardent loves scenes appear incredibly real. Even Valeria Solarino cropped locks do nothing to diminish her statuesque beauty.

Language: Italian with English Subtitles

 

Hannah Free

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Hannah and Rachel meet as children and eventually fall in love in a small mid-western town. When Rachel marries to conform to family and social expectations, the free spirited Hannah leaves, starting on a series of adventures to far-flung destinations. Rachel however, remained
the love of her life. After Rachel’s husband dies, Hannah returns and they pick up where they had left off as lovers.

Hannah (Sharon Gless), now cantankerous nursing home resident, chronicles their life together while her lover Rachel (Maureen Gallagher) lies in a coma in the same nursing home. Frequent flashbacks weave between the past and present illustrating the strength of their love affair despite Rachel’s marriage, Hannah’s affairs, a war and family objections. Rachel’s daughter Marge, who is jealous of the bond that Hannah and her mother share, forbids Hannah from seeing Rachel. When feisty 20-year-old Greta (Jacqui Jackson), Rachel’s great-granddaughter arrives at the nursing home in search of stories from the depression era, she meets Hannah. Outraged that Hannah is unable to see Rachel, Greta plots to reunite the lovers.

Director Wendy Jo Carlton has created a moving portrait of a life lived and the devastation that occurs when a partner’s life hangs in the balance. Screenwriter Claudia Allen is well known for her portrayals of strong female characters; she adapted Hannah Free from her own play.

Sharon Glass is brilliant as Hannah, an aging lesbian frustrated by the lack of rights and respect given to her in the nursing home she is forced to inhabit. She is as endearing in Hannah Free as she has been in TV dramas Queer as Folk and of course, Cagney and Lacey.

 

Gypo

(click image to view trailer)

Disillusioned housewife Helen (Pauline McLynn) lives a frustrating life with a bitter, angry husband (Paul McGann) and two ungrateful children in Margate. One day, her daughter Kelly (Tamzin Dunstone) brings home a few college friends, one of which is young Romany Czech
refugee Tasha (Chloe Sirene). Helen and Tasha instantly connect and continue to keep in contact even though Tasha’s friendship with Kelly dwindles.

Helen and Tasha’s friendship grows closer as they sympathize with each other’s situation. Tasha and her mother (Rula Lenska) have escaped Czechoslovakia and the oppression of her father and husband’s grasp and are now awaiting their British citizenship. When Tasha makes advances towards her, Helen is initially shocked but soon responds enthusiastically. Just when their romance is blooming, Tasha’s husband catches up to them, forcing Tasha and her mother to return to Czechoslovakia. Helen then races against time to catch up to Tasha and free her for
good.

Written and directed by Jan Dunn, this independent film chronicles the breakdown of a middle class family and the awakening of one woman to the pleasures of lesbian love. The story itself is revealed in three segments, through the eyes of Helen, her husband Paul and Tasha

Pauline McLynn, known mainly for her comedic work (Father Ted, Jam & Jerusalem) is fantastic as desperate housewife Helen trying to better herself while being inhibited at every turn by her resentful husband. Chloe Sirene is sexy and sweet as Czech immigrant Tasha as she struggles
to leave her past behind and start a new life in England.

 

Saving Face

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Closeted surgeon Wil (Michelle Krusiec) comes home one day to find her mother (Joan Chen) sitting on her doorstep. Her mother, has been exiled from her own parent’s house because she is pregnant and unwed, a big no-no in Chinese American culture. The intrusion is particularity
troublesome as Wil has just started to date sexy ballerina and out lesbian, Vivian (Lynn Chen). To get her life back, Wil sets her mother up on a variety of hilarious blind dates in the hope that she will find a husband.

As Wil and Vivian’s romance progresses, Will’s work and her closeted nature begin to get in the way. Vivian becomes frustrated at Wil’s reluctance to introduce her to her mother or acknowledge their relationship in public. When Vivian is offered a 4-year contract with the Paris
Opera Ballet, she must choose between leaving the woman she has fallen in love with and advancing her career.

The film was written and directed by Alice Wu, based on her own coming out experiences in New York’s Chinese-American community. Witty dialogue and situations make the film a joy to watch. It is as much a film about acceptance within a community as it is about coming out and feeling comfortable with yourself, but most of all it is about doing what is right for you despite with others think.

Michelle Krusiec portrays the meek somewhat timid Wil, in contrast to Lynn Chen’s confident and alluring Vivian. Both women are infinitely watchable as they stumble through the challenges of a relationship. The love scenes between Wil and Vivian are filled with sensuality and playfulness. It is Joan Chen as Wil’s mother however, that steals the show as the pregnant widow, her meaningful glances and timing are wonderfully comical.

Language: English with some Mandarin Chinese

 

 Circumstance

(click image to view trailer)

Atafeh (Nikohl Boosheri) and best friend Shireen (Sarah Kazemy) are typical teenagers, partying and experimenting with alcohol, drugs and sex. The difference is that they live in Tehran where this type of activity is prohibited, especially among women. When Atafeh and Shireen fall in love, they dream of escaping the confines of their culture and forging a bright future together.

Atafeh’s brother Mehran (Reza Sixo Safai) who has recently returned from drug re-habilitation is immediately suspicious of the relationship between Atafeh and Shireen. Fuelled by his growing obsession with Shireen, Mehran uses religion to subjugate the women. Atafeh and Shireen’s love however, cannot easily be oppressed.

Written and directed by Maryam Keshavarz, Circumstance explores modern Tehran’s underground youth scene as well as the danger and persecution that lesbians face in Iran. The film was banned in Iran and Keshavarz has been prohibited from returning there by the Iranian authorities since its release.

Nikohl Boosheri and Sarah Kazemy are wonderfully sexy and believable as two young women falling in love. The chemistry between the women is spot on; the love scenes are hot and steamy as they progress from tentative touching to full-on unstoppable passion.

Language: Persian with English subtitles

 

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by: Chris Alderson
Author of the 2012 Lesbian Film Guide – Covering over 300 lesbian themed films from around the globe, the 2012 Lesbian Film Guide provides a comprehensive guide to lesbian movies from the 1950s to present day.

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