Winner of Best British Short at the British Independent Film Awards, this 18-minute queer thriller is a proper heart-stopper. It’s shot in inky darkness, so is best watched with the lights out, but each scene is awash in colours and textures that are dazzling. And it’s also finely performed by terrific actors who know how to combine lusty sexuality with a real sense of danger.
The story centres on Jordan (I May Destroy You’s Paapa Essiedu), who heads out to a nightclub in full glam makeup, wearing a glittery mesh shirt and very short shorts. In mid-revelry, he spots his boyfriend with another guy, escaping into the street for some fresh air. There he starts flirting with thuggish but hot drug dealer Wes (Beach Rats’ Harris Dickinson). Impulsively, Jordan gets in Wes’ car, and they head off to a house party where the mixture of drugs, lust and violence causes everything to shift unexpectedly.
Essiedu and Dickinson are sexy actors who know how to infuse each moment with subtext, conveying a deep mutual attraction that remains tensely unspoken. Indeed, Jordan keeps remembering his father warning him as a child that people will try to hurt effeminate boys like him. But this certainly isn’t a cautionary tale.
As this night unfolds, we get so involved in the skilfully understated magnetism between these men that it’s almost unbearable to watch as things begin to twist and turn. Award-winning filmmakers Sam H Freeman and Ng Choon Ping create a lush, vivid atmosphere that bristles with unpredictability and takes the audience where we really don’t want to go. It’s literally stunning.
Femme screened recently at BFI London Film Festival, and is still playing festivals around the world. Keep an eye out for it.