Approximately seven months ago, I started off this blog with a list of lesbian rom-com recommendations. At that point, myself and Dilara had no idea how far Much Ado could go; for all intents and purposes, this blog would be a place where we could occasionally throw written work, the odd opinion piece, or a review that required a platform slightly more formal than letterboxd.
Nine regular writers, twelve guest writers, 136 posts, 2700 twitter followers, and ten festivals later, Much Ado About Cinema has become a space where young developing critics can hone their skills and produce content for a new generation of film fans. For a while now, I’ve been wanting to do a follow-up post to my very first article – a continued vent about the wonder of the lesbian romcom. These five films may be slightly rough around the edges, with some even veering into cringeworthy territory, but they all provide the kind of gay warm fuzzies that every queer woman deserves.
Show Me Love/Fucking Åmål (1998)
Potentially more of a romantic drama than a true romantic comedy, ‘Show Me Love’ provides an insightful tale of teen love that will resonate with any lesbian who crushed on the popular girl in high school. Agnes is a depressed, closeted sixteen-year-old with a passionate love for Elin, an outgoing but bratty teen. Both girls are unhappy with their lives in different ways; Agnes is lonely and stuck in the juvenile social class of “weirdo outcast”, whilst Elin is bored with her seemingly perfect life. After a cruel kiss on a dare, Elin becomes intrigued by Agnes, and their mismatched romance flourishes through the peaks and troughs of adolescent life.
The film is beautifully harsh in its depiction of this difficult time in gay lives. Though this style may be overwhelming for more sensitive viewers (there is an explicit self-harm scene that must be approached with care), the end product is an adorable lesbian romance that truthfully tackles the convoluted topic that is teenage sexuality.
Nina’s Heavenly Delights (2006)
Honestly, ‘Imagine Me and You’ wishes it could reach the level of embarrassing cheese-fest that ‘Nina’s Heavenly Delights’ achieves. There are so many delightful clichés packed into the film’s 96-minute runtime (too short, we as a community deserve AT LEAST six hours of sequels) that it’s a wonder they managed to fit in anything else. As it stands, ‘Nina’s Heavenly Delights’ simultaneously makes strides in its individuality, revolving around a Scottish Indian lesbian (Nina) and her battle to save her father’s curry house. Funny, endearing, and wilful female characters can be found everywhere in this delightful film, from Nina herself, to her love interest Lisa, to her mother Suman and sister Priya.
One of the absolute highlights, however, is not necessarily the romance, but the friendship between Nina and her gay best friend Bobbi; this inclusion of cross-community support and love is so rarely found even within queer cinema. Bobbi is Nina’s rock throughout the film. He encourages her to follow her heart (gross, I know), to be open and honest, and to love herself for who she is. This may be cheesy, but it’s a more than welcome break from the tragedy that LGBTQ+ audiences are used to.
Appropriate Behaviour (2014)
‘Appropriate Behaviour’ is an even lesser-spotted variant of the sapphic romcom; the protagonist Shirin is bisexual, and the film explores her relationships with both men and women. Shirin, caught up in the post-break up blues, finds herself stuck between identities. As a second-generation Persian-American, she can never seem to live up to her parent’s traditional expectations, and as a bisexual woman beginning to explore her sexuality, she must navigate an LGBTQ+ community that is not always the most understanding. Director Desiree Akhavan, who also plays Shirin, handles these dilemmas with a quick, self-deprecating humour typical of a millennial outlook – this is a film that seems tailor-made for a generation wrought with self-esteem issues, identity crises and darkly comic wit.
With a hilarious script and deeply relatable characters, ‘Appropriate Behaviour’ is the kind of LGBTQ+ cinema that desperately deserves the spotlight, and with Akhavan’s ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ on the horizon, now is the perfect time to revisit her gem of a debut.
Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same (2011)
Let’s be honest, you know from the title that this one’s gonna be good. ‘Lesbian Space Alien’ is shot entirely in black-and-white and boasts an endearingly low budget vibe reminiscent of 1950s sci-fi. The story follows three lesbian aliens who have been sent to Earth in the belief that heartbreak will cure their overemotional nature, which is slowly destroying the atmosphere of their planet. (Yeah, it doesn’t make sense – and that’s part of the charm.)
The film’s irreverent plot and off-kilter humour come together to create a film that is genuinely sweet in its disregard for social norms. ‘Lesbian Space Alien’ focuses on the beauty of falling in love despite differing origin or appearance; socially awkward alien Zoinx happily begins a relationship with Jane, a warm-hearted shop employee who adapts quickly to Zoinx’s alternative habits. (The aliens do not kiss, rather, they touch each other’s noses. This quirk transforms from a sight gag into an adorable, if strange, romantic gesture.)
Overall, this indie rom-com is more than worth your time and money, especially considering the importance of supporting independent filmmaking. If you’re in the UK, the DVD is even available on Amazon for only £2.99 – go go go!
Better Than Chocolate (1999)
This gorgeous film gives us not one, but two sweet lesbian romance stories, along with some cute queer-feel-good-vibes and a poignant mother/daughter relationship. The first of these romances is Maggie, a closeted baby dyke, and Kim, a carefree butch with a talent for painting. When Maggie’s mother Lila moves in, however, Maggie must find a way to balance her new relationship with Lila’s controlling nature.
This new love is not all that populates Maggie’s life, however. She is active within the local LGBTQ women’s community; she works in a “book store” (read: explicit videos and manuals on lesbian S&M) and spends her evenings dancing in a gay bar. Her social landscape is populated largely of women much like herself: Frances, who owns the store and is in a one-woman fight with US customs; Carla, a bisexual woman who takes a shining to Maggie’s brother, and Judy, a trans lesbian and the dedicated mum of the group. Frances and Judy make up the second romance within the film – Frances has not had the best experience in her past relationships, and Judy’s own conflicts with transphobia hardly make the world an easy place for the pair. Still, ‘Better Than Chocolate’ keeps to its romcom roots, avoiding the lesbian tragedy trope and providing these lovable characters with the happiness they deserve by the end of the film.
Thank you for reading and following us! If you have any more suggestions for lesbian rom-coms, send them over to @muchadocinema and if I get enough I’ll be sure to make a third part to this series. The world can never have enough gay rom-coms, after all!