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9 LGBTI movies that were amazing in 2018

9 LGBTI movies that were amazing in 2018

Miles Heizer and Nick Robinson in Love, Simon | Photo: 20th Century Fox

9 Alex Strangelove

A sweet story of a schoolboy coming to terms with his sexuality, Alex Strangelove is coincidentally similar in theme, tone and style to one of the year’s most analysed LGBTI-themed films: Love, Simon. (More on which later). If the latter’s remembered as the bigger hit, I hope the former’s remembered as something of a companion piece, at least.

Indeed, it’s a fun, frivolous but meaningful watch. Plus, it’s much smarter than your average high school romcom. It features nimble, energetic direction and a charismatic central turn from Daniel Doheny. Not that Alex Strangelove was without its critics, of course. Some LGBTI viewers felt short-changed when the representation of bisexuality in the trailer failed to materialise in the film.

8 The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Like Love, Simon and Alex Strangelove, The Miseducation of Cameron Post reached theatres not far apart from a similarly-themed movie: Boy Erased. The two are both subdued and quietly devastating films about LGBTI conversion therapy; however, Boy Erased has gotten more attention largely because of the star names it boasts in key roles. (Namely Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe). In Cameron Post, it’s less experienced, but no less talented actors who do all the heavy lifting.

Chloe Grace Moretz is beyond compelling and relatable in the titular role, while Forrest Goodluck and Sasha Lane offer vibrant, sardonic turns as the friends she makes when she’s sent away to camp, after being caught getting intimate with a girl the night of her prom. A beautiful film to look at – the countryside surrounding the camp is irresistibly gorgeous – it’s nevertheless a strangely chilling experience overall.

7 Disobedience

The trials and tribulations of LGBTI women are presented with featherlight delicacy in the Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams-starring Disobedience. Echoing the regulations of the North London Orthodox Jewish community it’s set in, the drama between reunited former lovers Ronit and (the closeted) Esti is almost maddeningly lowkey and noninvasive.

Attentive viewers unbothered by the lack of drama, however, are richly rewarded by the point of the film’s centerpiece: a daringly erotic, romantic and eye-poppingly explicit sex scene. It’s one of the most powerful of the decade.

6 The Little Stranger

This slow-burning supernatural drama features an LGBTI character so finely drawn, many will fail to grasp her sexuality at all. The same probably goes for some readers of the novel on which the movie’s based, by acclaimed lesbian novelist Sarah Waters.

Set in and around a creepy manor in 1940s England, the film follows Dr. Faraday’s romantic pursuit of Caroline Ayres, an awkward and anguished woman whose ambivalence towards her suitor has supernatural consequences. Tales of forced heterosexuality tend to be dominated by unsubtle displays of hyper-masculinity (for example, 2016’s The Pass and 2005’s Brokeback Mountain). In The Little Stranger, the character in question is but a mysterious whisper, but all the more fascinating for it.

5 The Happy Prince

Best known for a sensitive period dramas and crowd-pleasing comedies of varying quality, Rupert Everett’s natural kinship with foppish literary and LGBTI icon Oscar Wilde had been long-observed – not least by the actor himself.

A labour of love years in the making, The Happy Prince is Everett’s directorial debut, and he of course cannily casts himself as The Picture of Dorian Gray author. Passion and adulation for the writer emanates from the screen, as Rupert gives his strongest acting performance to date.

4 Bohemian Rhapsody

Plagued with production problems (director Brian Singer left halfway through production) and with a trailer dismissed as tame and watered down, this glossy, colourful, big budget Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody seemed destined to fail. It didn’t. The rock epic is now the highest-grossing musical biographical film of all time, despite tepid reviews and the vocal distaste of some LGBTI viewers.

Personally, I felt frontman Freddie Mercury’s bisexuality and experience of HIV and AIDS were explored adequately, despite its 12A certificate. Could it have gone further, had it been a 15, or an 18? Yes, but there’s nothing stopping someone else making that film, is there? As it stands, there’s plenty of valuable education in this film for young teens, and the fact 24 minutes of it were censored in Malaysia, owing to archaic anti-homosexuality laws, reflects how its queerness isn’t completely compromised.

3 Colette

We’re used to seeing Keira Knightley in period costume, underplaying demure, softly-spoken women. As the French Nobel Prize-nominated novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, she shows the range she’s quietly acquired after 15 years in the movies.

She starts off in familiar territory – a sweet 20-year-old with braided hair, tending to her parents’ garden – before overthrowing expectations and painting a picture of a fiery, desirous, passionate artist who ultimately helps pave the way for women’s rights and sexual equality in her own eccentric way.

Drawing on her own life story, Colette ghost wrote a string of hit novels for her obnoxious husband Henry Gauthier-Villars (played just the right side of parody by Dominic West). As the couple explore polyamorous pastures – a fling between Colette and socialite Georgie Raoul-Duval, played by Eleanor Tomlinson, is gloriously erotic and beautifully-staged – Colette’s true artistic voice and burgeoning queer identity become irrepressible.

It’s a years-old story that demanded to be spotlighted, so pertinent is it to today; and a cameo from trans activist Jake Graf makes it feel evermore current. If it lacks a certain seriousness – some of Keira and Dominic’s scenes are fabulously soapish – it’s all the more watchable for it. Although, one undeniable criticism: the fact it’s all in English and not French was challenging for this viewer.

2 Boy Erased

To call it this year’s Call Me By Your Name would be an overstatement, but Boy Erased has had real impact. Not least when the film’s star Lucas Hedges made headlines when, in response to a question about his sexuality, spoke of infatuation with male friends, saying he exists ‘on a spectrum’.

Behind the buzz is a surprisingly minimal but deeply affecting film, based on Garrard Conley’s memoir about being sent to conversion therapy. In the film, the attempt at sexual erasure is in fact so soft, so frighteningly expert, it takes a while for the insidiousness of the situation to become clear.

Much his been written about the extended cameos delivered by Xavier Dolan and Troye Sivan. They take time out of directing and pop stardom, respectively, to appear as two of Jared’s fellow patients. While both omit a certain haunted complexity, neither character is fleshed out.

Oscar winners Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman add aforementioned weight as main character Jared’s caring but God-fearing parents. They should help the movie’s chances come awards season. But the star turn is of course Lucas Hedges, who brings a furrowed brow and palpable intensity to the demanding central role.

1 Love, Simon

Firstly, this movie deserves the number one spot for pushing the career of Keiynan Lonsdale to the next level alone.

Previously best known for his starring role in TV show The Flash, here, Keiynan plays the sporty jock Bram. He may or may not be the secret online love interest of titular closeted schoolboy Simon. It’s the film that galvanized Keiynan in going public about his own non-heterosexuality, leading to a rapturous response from fans. Interestingly, it also birthed a fabulous social media extroversion that shows no signs of abating; contrastingly, Keiynan plays Bram with a solid, understated stoicism.

Meanwhile, the painfully handsome Nick Robinson imbues Simon with a real sense of sexual curiosity. For Simon, the thirst is real. It’s Nick’s first memorable role since 2015’s Jurassic World.

His puppy dog face effortlessly communicates the growing pains of adolescence, and his warm, gentle manner is immensely watchable. To the audience, he’s an open book. But publicly, he’s firmly, and successfully in the closet. Thus Nick follows a long, complicated lineage of straight actors playing so-say straight-acting gay men.

Does Simon’s presenting so convincingly heterosexual serve the narrative, or is it designed simply make the film more palatable to straight audiences? My instinct told me the former.

Beyond Keiynan and Nick, the movie is packed with likeable, three dimensional characters played by likeable, three dimensional actors. Katherine Langford and Miles Heizer hit the big screen after finding fame on Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why. (Love, Simon really puts that show, and its plodding pace and cardboard characters, into perspective). They play just two of Simon’s many friends, all with problems of their own that are explored in reasonably detail.

‘The acting is full of warmth and emotion’

What makes Love, Simon truly stand out (ironically, along with Alex Strangelove) hasn’t got anything to do with LGBTI subtext, though. It’s that it’s a rare example of a teen movie that isn’t trashy, offensive or just plain forgettable. The writing’s unpredictable. The casting’s flawless. And finally, the acting is full of warmth and emotion. It’s up there with Mean Girls, Clueless and Heathers as one of the best high school movies ever.