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Pride Month is here, and it’s time to celebrate the many wonderful and nuanced stories centering the LGBTQ community. If you are looking for queer movies you may have missed this year, look no further than this list! Now more than ever, films studios are producing LGBTQ themed movies with a large number of those films involving women to women relationships. This is a huge shift from past films centering the community which often allowed men to stand at the center of various narratives. Thankfully, things are starting to change. This year is filled with films across genres set to release on various platforms. The films are diverse as they discuss different themes of longing, feminism, desire, adventure, and revenge, showing that same-sex relationships are a multifaceted experience that don’t exist in a vacuum.
This list includes films that are currently available for viewing or will be available throughout the year. From Rafiki, the first Kenyan film to be selected to compete at Cannes Film Festival, to Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, Booksmart, and the upcoming Portrait of A Lady on Fire which has garnered rave reviews, each film provides for a different viewing experience, so there is something for everyone.
Check out the ones you may have missed and look out for the upcoming movies
Wild Nights With Emily
Biopics often take themselves too seriously and are very conventional in their delivery: the origin, the rise and fall, and the comeback of the protagonist. However, director Madeleine Olnek throws away the formalities for her new film Wild Nights With Emily. The movie follows the famed poet and closeted lesbian Emily Dickinson (Molly Shannon) and her relationship with her sister-in-law, Susan Gilbert (Susan Ziegler). Emily balances life as a poet, her eagerness for female companionship, and an overbearing patriarchal society. It may sound heavy, but writer Olnek handles the material with levity and biting wit.
The Heiresses is a riches to rags story directed by Marcelo Martinessi. Chela (Ana Brun) drives a taxi in Asunción, Paraguay to supplement income after going broke. To make matters worse, Chela’s girlfriend Chaquita (Margarita Irún) is jailed for extortion. Things start looking up when Angy (Ana Ivanova) enters her life and offers her a boost of self-confidence. As the bond between the two grows stronger, Chela undergoes intense self-reflection while breaking out of her shell and finally having some fun.
Rafiki is the first Kenyan film to be selected to compete at Cannes. The story isn’t overly complicated as it chronicles the courtship of two women–yet the controversy surrounding the film is much more tumultuous. Homosexuality is banned in Kenya. Director Wanuri Kahiu bravely released the film anyway, and it was swiftly denied a release date. What deterred the Kenya Film Classification Board from granting the film a +18 rating is the message of hope. Had the two protagonist been more remorseful about their relationship, then the film would have gained approval. There is a silver lining of sorts. The restrictions were lifted for seven days ahead of Oscar season to be eligible for submission. It’s a movie that’s definitely worth the watch not only because it’s crafted beautifully, but for the barriers it had to overcome.
Tell It To The Bees
Two women fall in love in post World War 2 Scotland in the Annabel Jankel film Tell It To The Bees based on a novel by Fiona Shaw of the same name. Lydia Weekes begins to live and work for Dr. Jean Markham (Anna Paquin) with her young son Robert. He discovers a bee colony in her backyard and becomes curious. Jean just returned to town in the wake of her father’s death to take over his medical practice. His growing fascination with the bees and nature magnifies as does the desire between his mother and Jean. This tale of forbidden love amid small-minded townsfolk highlights how profound ignorance and hate can manifest when people can’t mind their business. The film is now streaming on Amazon Prime.
Vita and Virginia
Adapted from the Vita and Virginia novel by Eileen Atkins this film provides a whimsical account of the failed love between flamboyant socialite and author Vita Sackvile-West, and famed author Virginia Woolfe. At the time, West’s books were more popular with readers than Woolfe’s. Out of conflict grew mutual respect, which transformed to love between the two women. But it wasn’t all unicorn and rainbows. As their love grew, so did the problems, and their tumultuous relationship comes to a head with unfortunate results. At least we got the book Orlando (another milestone in queer literature) out of it. The film will be released on VOD and in limited theaters on Aug. 30.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Hailed as a masterpiece straight out of the Cannes film festival Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, received rave reviews and a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Portrait is a romance drama set in 18th-century which follows two women who love on their terms. Marianne (Noemie Merlant) is an accomplished painter tasked with creating a wedding portrait for Héloïse (Adèle Haenel). However, Héloïse isn’t happy at the idea of marrying a stranger and makes it known by rebelling– including not posing for the portrait. As the pair get to know each other through their love of art and philosophy, their sexual attraction to one another also blooms. The film will be released in theaters on Dec. 6.
Alison Williams (Get Out) and Logan Browning (Dear White People) engage in the most batshit revenge story of the year in new Netflix movie The Perfection. Charlotte (Alison Williams) is a cellist prodigy who retired early to care for her dying mother. When her mother dies, she travels to Shanghai seeking to reconnect with former mentor and director of the Bachoff school of music, Anton (Steven Weber). He’s accompanied by his new protégé Lizzie who is with him to help judge a contest seeking new recruits for the school. There is an instant sexual attraction between the Charlotte and Lizzie, and after a sexual encounter, the two embark on a path of lust, drugs, and retribution so bonkers it left social media in a frenzy. The Perfection is now streaming on Netflix.
Teen dramas are making a come back in a significant way. With a new take on high school life, Booksmart is all laughs and all heart. Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are best friends and high school seniors so deep in their studies they’ve missed out on having fun. To make up for this, they commit to having one night of excitement before graduation. What makes Booksmart unique is their treatment of Amy’s queerness. She’s an out teenager, and everyone around loves and accepts her for who she is. First-time feature director Olivia Wilde doesn’t treat homosexuality as an outlier but integrates it into everyday teen life without the stigma. It’s refreshing to see this take among young women in cinema–it also doesn’t hurt that the film is funny as hell and worth the price of admission. Booksmart is currently in theaters.
Elisa y Marcela
Did you know the first same-sex marriage in Spain happened 1901 between Elisa Sánchez Loriga and Marcela Gracia Ibeas? Netflix is ready to give us the full story on this with the period drama Elisa y Marcela that envisions the 15-year courtship and eventual marriage between the two. Elisa (Natalia de Molina) and Marcela (Greta Fernández) meet at school and quickly form a friendship that turns into love. Marcela’s parents are suspicious something is happening between the two so Marcela is sent away in hopes she’ll “come to her senses.” When Marcela returns years later, she and Elisa pick up where they left off and decide to make it official with marriage, but they can’t marry as two women, so Elisa becomes Mario to make things legal. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, and they have to deal with societal stigma and violence from those who don’t believe in that kind of love. The film will begin streaming June 7 on Netflix.