Queer cinema is my ultimate stress reducer, and that hasn’t yet turned out to be false even during this time of social distancing. For your quarantine viewing consideration, I’ve assembled a list of films that I think are worth watching. Don’t worry — none of them contain the “bury your gays” trope or end unhappily.
“Yes or No” (Thailand, 2010)
This groundbreaking 2010 Thai rom-com meshes three tropes — enemies to lovers, opposites attract and college roommates — and ends up with a wonderful concoction bound to elicit both tears and laughter. The happy ending is one that’s hard-earned by a long journey that doesn’t ignore strict Thai gender and sexuality conventions, but “Yes or No” is still delightfully lighthearted. Plus, it doesn’t just focus on these conventions; it also shows audiences the flip side: the part of Thai society that has embraced queerness.
“Yes or No” is currently available on Netflix.
“The David Dance” (United States, 2014)
I waited years for “The David Dance” to finally be made available on a streaming service after its 2014 festival release, and it did not disappoint. Mesmerizing, bittersweet and tragic, “The David Dance” was adapted from the stage for the screen, and sometimes this awkwardly shows, but I still think it’s well worth every minute. It’s also one of the two movies on this list that isn’t a coming-of-age film. Its story about a middle-aged queer man trying to find his place in the world, which hasn’t always been kind to him, is one that resonates in a different way than the many queer films that focus on adolescence.
“The David Dance” is currently available on Amazon Prime Video.
“Of Girls and Horses” (Germany, 2014)
In this quiet film, which doesn’t tread European arthouse film territory at all, everyone is casually a lesbian — a bad-girl-in-reformation falls for a clean-cut girl who loves horses. “Of Girls and Horses” is set on a horse farm, so while that deceptively simple title is a little cringe-worthy, it’s not inaccurate. There are tons of cute moments between the two main girls as they grow closer and come to realize that they’re falling for each other. Come for the horses, stay for the understated coming-of-age love story. Need I say more?
“Of Girls and Horses” is currently available on YouTube.
“My Life With James Dean” (France, 2017)
This less-quiet movie does tread European arthouse film territory, which isn’t surprising given that it’s about a filmmaker showing his arthouse film at a festival, but it does so in spectacular, surprising ways while still following a plot. I wasn’t expecting to like this film as much as I did, but the way in which it immediately makes you suspend your disbelief while watching it is a testament to its subtle brilliance. “My Life With James Dean” is the other film on this list that isn’t a coming-of-age story, although it does grapple with the love interest’s own coming of age.
“My Life With James Dean” is currently available on Amazon Prime Video.
“Blue Citrus Hearts” (United States, 2003)
This selection is super lo-fi, but hear me out: If you can get past how super lo-fi it is — and by “super lo-fi,” I mean it looks like it was filmed on a Nokia phone — “Blue Citrus Hearts” is a profound coming-of-age story about a boy who loves writing. The clunky cinematography follows him as he comes to terms with his sexuality and his feelings for his best friend. It’s adorable, sad and awkward in all of the right ways, and if you stick it out until the end, those credits are really something.
“Blue Citrus Hearts” is currently available on Amazon Prime Video.
“But I’m a Cheerleader” (United States, 1999)
I’m putting “But I’m a Cheerleader” on this list because if you haven’t watched it yet, now is as good a time as any to check this seminal film off your queer cinematic to-watch list. I hadn’t seen this campy picture until recently, and I mean it when I say this film is as nearly perfect as they come, no matter what the critics said. Its understanding of queer female sexuality is unique, and its handling of serious topics such as conversion therapy is neither heavy-handed nor somber.
“But I’m a Cheerleader” is currently available for free with ads on Vudu.
“Maurice” (United Kingdom, 1987)
Set in Edwardian England, this period drama wasn’t a period drama when the source material was written in 1913 by E. M. Forster. “Maurice” is perhaps my favorite queer film of all time. It’s brusquely honest about the hardships and prosecution gay men experienced in England while also telling a beautiful love story and tale of coming to accept oneself. Merchant Ivory Productions is the monarch of period films, and “Maurice” is an especially masterful example, one that has only gotten better with age.
“Maurice” is currently available on YouTube.