Reviewed by: Jane Fae

"The dialogue from writer Johnny Severin is neat, witty, clever, with more than a few culinary references tossed in for the observant."

A.E.S.O.P. opens to a teasing image. Two women, lonely, counting out their life in bananas. That’s right, bananas! Because, as one of them explains, a banana a day keeps the doctor away. So at the start of the week there will be a bunch of seven on the counter and by the end, just one or two.

Each week. Every week. It’s an intelligent image and one to which the film returns several times to underscore points in the narrative.

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So this is a kookie film about two kookie women, Marie (Nicole Coulon) and Ruth (Erin Elle) who happen to meet in a lesbian bar! Well, sort of. To begin there is plenty of gently humorous, insightful, interesting stuff about the women who love women dating scene and you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is where we are going.

A trad rom com: girl meets girl; girl loses girl; etc. And, yes, there is a little bit of that. But not too much, since it is very clear from start to end that Marie and Ruth are devoted to one another. So what starts as rom com, a light (banana-flavoured) soufflé of a dessert, quickly turns into full-on four course dystopian roast dinner with all the trimmings.

For Ruth is not what she seems. She is, in fact, an analyst for the mysterious and, as the film progresses, increasingly sinister A.E.S.O.P. corporation. A.E.S.O.P. has discovered the secret to eternal life and, since there are not enough secret magic pills for everyone, Ruth’s job is to apply slowly, painstakingly, an algorithm that will decide who gets to live forever, who doesn’t. Bummer!

Worse, a condition of Ruth’s employment is that she never let on to anyone what it is that she – or A.E.S.O.P. – does and, logical corollary; she must have no relationships with anyone. Ever.

And P.S. Big Mother is watching you. If Ruth ever happens to break her terms of employment, which she very clearly is, as she and Marie slowly, inexorably fall into love, there will be consequences. Never quite specified. But enough hints are given to make clear that these include the sort of sanction you really don’t want to find out about.

So the film shifts and twists, annoyingly at times. What starts as rom com shifts to existential puzzle about the meaning of human life and relationships when one has been granted the privilege of living forever and the other may not be. Then it shifts again, but, no more spoilers. Just that by the end you will feel for the dilemma facing our two heroes and you, too, will be listening nervously for the 4am knock on the front door.

Does this work? In the end, yes, I believe it does. There are moments when I found the contrast of style and content ever so slightly jarring: found, too, the happy clappy way in which A.E.S.O.P security – Chester (Mark Daugherty) and Alexandrea (Lauren Henning) – go about their duties to be just a bit too much. Like a duo of Bond villain on happy pills. Or eternity ones.

I loved the central relationship between Ruth and Marie, which was sweet, engaging and made me want to cheer them on loudly. Look, this may just be an idealised version of how a lesbian relationship is meant to go, but we all need ideals.

There, too, in the background was Marie’s support posse, a trio (Dani Fernandez, Trinity Breanne Perio and Sadie Brook) who underline the importance of friendship.

The dialogue from writer Johnny Severin is neat, witty, clever, with more than a few culinary references tossed in for the observant. It’s not just the bananas that matter but scrambled eggs, too!

There is a delightful soundtrack from composer and songwriter Asha Iwanowicz. Mostly it is subtle accompaniment to the on-screen action. But in the final scene, knowing what you will know, having watched the film all the way through, “You’re the only thing that makes sense” is quite, quite heart-breaking.

On the downside, there were moments when the acting and the scene-setting doesn't quite hack it. A little too much of the am dram vibe. Put that aside: this was low budget film, not Hollywood blockbuster and a real credit to director Catherine Lane Mersereau.

A VoD version of the film is out shortly from LesFlicks, which describes itself as the “go-to platform for lesbian & bisexual film across the world”. If you’d like to watch it, check it out at www.lesflicks.com and www.lesflicksvod.vhx.tv.

Reviewed on: 08 Oct 2020
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A.E.S.O.P. packshot
In a future where ageing can be prevented, a statistician barred from having romantic relationships because of her job finds herself falling in love.
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Director: Catherine Mersereau

Writer: Johnny Severin

Starring: Nicole Coulon, Erin Elle, Corinne Bachaud, Sadie Brook, Mark Daugherty, Sionne Elise, Dani Fernandez, Jill Galbraith, Lauren Henning, Jenna Jimenez, Maggie Jorgenson, Taylor Lyons, Trinity Breanne Perio, Madison Shamoun, Zoe Yale

Year: 2019

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: US


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