As this year's Pride Month comes to an end, our writers share their recommendations for queer film and series to watch. These works capture our favorite stories of LGBTQ+ characters, coming-of-age, history, relationships, and love.
Directed by Céline Sciamma, who brought us last year’s excellent film Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Tomboy is a film about a 10 year-old gender non-conforming child learning how to exist in the world. It navigates that subject matter with grace, empathy, a phenomenal performance from the film’s lead actress, and by intentionally dodging the clichés and cheap drama one might expect from a premise of a girl “pretending” to be a boy (see She’s The Man for that). I say “pretending” with the most heavily emphasized question mark in existence, because the film’s intentionally ambiguous over what Laure/Mikäel’s identity is. The film can either be read as the story of a young transgender man struggling to establish his identity, or a girl struggling to accept her own girlhood. But, since expecting a 10 year-old to completely figure themselves out at that age is ludicrous, I think the ambiguity is fitting, even welcome. Ultimately, Tomboy captures just how confusing it can be for a child to comprehend the way gender is traditionally structured, which is a reality I’ve never seen another film present period, let alone as wonderfully as this film does.
Paris is Burning
I first heard of Paris is Burning from a dear friend of mine. The 1990 documentary tells the history of the ball culture of New York in the 80s, featuring the transgender people of color that were a part of it as well. The documentary highlights questions surrounding themes of raciality, class, gender, sexuality, etc. that were/are an inherent part of New York drag ball society. Not only is it an informative watch, but its historical significance is something that is unmatched (especially in these trying times). I highly recommend this as a watch that will show you what drag is like from an African American and Latinx perspective.
Call Me by Your Name
Call Me By Your Name has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon in recent years. Even if you haven’t seen the four-Oscar nominated film, you’d probably recognize the poster photograph of Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer) resting on one another’s necks, gazing into a clear blue sky, or maybe you’ve heard of the conspicuously erotic peach scene. Call Me By Your Name centers around Elio, a teen spending the summer with his family in Italy. American graduate student Oliver stays with the family to assist Elio’s dad with his archaeological research. Elio is introspective, with an affinity for reading and classical music, while Oliver is in many ways his opposite, confident with a devil-may-care attitude. The two become friends quickly and eventually develop a sexual and romantic relationship, which they keep secret from Elio’s family. As they become more emotionally intimate, Elio falls deep into his first love. We get a sense of his coming-of-age as he allows himself to be more vulnerable with Oliver, emotionally and physically. The most powerful monologue in the movie is delivered by Elio’s dad to his heartbroken son after Oliver’s departure back to the US. “I will have been a terrible father if, one day, you’d want to speak to me and felt that the door was shut, or not sufficiently open,” he says to Elio, capturing his acceptance of his son’s relationship and why this movie is a perfect watch for Pride Month. If you need any more reason to watch — besides the artful storytelling of a genuine queer relationship, the lush northern Italy backdrop, and the romantic soundtrack — just remember that Timothée Chalamet is in it. That’s reason enough.
Moonlight, the internet-famous winner of the 2017 Academy Award for Best Picture, aims to show viewers that within so much darkness, there is light. Chiron aka “Little” lives with his mentally ill, cocaine-dependent mother (Naomie Harris), who already sees, and lambastes, his homosexuality. His only solace as an elementary school child is his mother’s drug dealer, Juan (Mahershala Ali) and his wife Teresa (Janelle Monae). The film traces young Chiron’s life as he finds love, faces humiliation and redeems himself via the path of his childhood role model. It’s a bittersweet Black bildungsroman divided into three chapters, with cinematographically cohesive and haunting scenes throughout. The scenes of Black queer romance — hesitant movements on Miami’s moonlit sands; nervous flirting between plastic cups of wine; awkward silences and side-glances in adult Chiron’s car — are so fresh, unlike the caricatures of this criminally underrepresented group. Moonlight challenges so many conventions and stereotypes, including society’s caricatures of the eternally caring mother; the machismo Black man; the greedy drug dealer; and the two-faced friend. Nothing and no one is to be taken at face value in this film, and through these complex characters viewers may hopefully gain a better understanding and appreciation for the beautiful but bittersweet world of gay Black men.
Hearts Beat Loud
Hearts Beat Loud, directed by Ben Haley, is a film about vintage record shop owner Frank as he closes his shop and saves up money to send his daughter, Sam, to college. Through the years, Frank and Sam have shared a passion for music and each week had jam sessions together. Several months before Sam’s slated departure for college on the west coast, Frank uploads one of their songs to Spotify, and it soon becomes a viral sensation. Forming a live act and trying to revive a dying Brooklyn record store, the father and daughter duo’s bond becomes stronger than ever. The story is endearing and will give you warm fuzzies as you watch the two share a strong love for making music. It’s a relatable coming of age film, especially for those who are getting ready for college (as I was when I saw this film) and are trying to discover things about themselves they never knew before. Sam is an especially lovely character that is not only just freaking cool, but her story itself as separate from her father is just as interesting as the overall story arc (no spoilers here! You’ll have to watch). I highly recommend this film as a queer film featuring POC as main characters, and it in the end is just a delightful watch that will have you dreaming of crowded New York streets, shops, and concerts.
Euphoria is a teenage drama based off of an Israeli show of the same name. The show follows Rue (Zendaya), a teenager fresh out of rehab who does not plan on staying sober. New in town arrives Jules (Hunter Schaefer), a transgender girl who uses abstract and outlandish fashion and makeup to mask some of the deeper troubles she’s faced in the past. Rue becomes enamored with Jules, and they soon enter a relationship, but as the tumultuous pit that high school can be, there are people bent on ruining what Rue and Jules share. Their bond is deep, but Euphoria illustrates that sometimes even the most beautiful things can be the most heartbreaking. Euphoria was all the rage in fall 2019, with its inspiring makeup looks, commentary on queer culture, candidness about substance abuse, and its using of a lens to peer into the lives of various high school teenagers as they grapple with life on a day to day basis. Sam Levinson’s creation is one that is unafraid to speak out about the struggles and anxieties that young people may face, and there is certainly much depth to the on-screen interactions between characters. Although Euphoria can be unequivocally devastating and depressing at certain times, it will leave you reflecting on your own angst-filled high school experiences as juxtaposed with moments of untroubled highs of happiness and content.