Thursday, April 09, 2009

LLGFF: Tru Loved

Still from Lion's Den
Tru Loved, dir Stewart Wade
Lion's Den, dir Pablo Trapero
To Faro, dir Nanna Neul

Three tales of forbidden love and social barriers.

US high schools are a fertile ground for films in a way other educational systems don't seem to be. There's something about the social pressures, hierarchies and cliques that is irresistible to filmmakers. Tru Loved is the latest such comedy, dropping a coming out story into this social pressure cooker.

The title character is the new girl at school, moving from San Francisco to the boondocks at the behest of her two moms. Ignored by the self-appointed cool kids, she is thrilled when quarterback Lo asks her out. Envisioning romance around every corner (the film makes great use of fantasy sequences), Tru is brought down to earth when it becomes clear that Lo is a closet case. Undaunted, she sets out to establish a Gay-Straight Alliance (these have become omnipresent in the last decade but certainly didn't exist when I was at school) at her school and finds herself confronted by all manner of complications, while maintaining her "romance" with Lo. Funny and well-written, the film has a few flat moments but has some real bite and intelligence, not the least in its use of "Katie" as a term for a beard. How did that get past the lawyers?

Not nearly so upbeat is the Argentinean prison drama Lion's Den, featuring a standout performance by Martina Gusman as Julia, imprisoned for the murder of her boyfriend and the attempted murder of their mutual lover. Thrown into prison and giving birth there, Julia must raise her son Tomas within the walls while fighting her conviction. Refreshingly unsensationalistic in its treatment of prison and the love affair that Julia begins with fellow inmate Marta, the film is sensitively directed by Pablo Trapero and asks a difficult question: is it better for a child to be raised in prison or taken away from his mother at age four?

Asking, but not answering, questions about perception is To Faro, a German film about mistaken identity that is an uneasy mix of comedy and drama. Stifling in her job at a company providing airline meals, Melanie jumps at the chance of dating cute teen Jenny, even if it means adopting the identity of Miguel, a Portuguese emigre. Conducting a romance under false pretences leads to comical mix-ups and very serious consequences, with abrupt shifts of tone that are jarring. As Melanie leaves home, the film offers her an escape from her predicament but not the underlying problems.

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