Below Her Mouth


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Below Her Mouth
"A simple story told well, this is an affecting piece of cinema that punches well above its weight."

The romance film is often treated as innately lightweight, which seems unfair. Whilst it's true that there are a great many bad ones out there, the genre presents considerable challenges to the serious artist. Ultimately there are only so many ways that stories like this can develop. The intense emotions that characters experience are themselves often trivialised, perhaps subject to contempt because of their very familiarity. To make a film like this work requires tightly focused performances and a director willing to approach the story with real conviction. Below Her Mouth is a rare example of a film where these elements come together.

It begins in a manner that is part cliché and part fantasy. Shy, pretty twentysomething Jasmine (Natalie Krill) is walking down the street when she is catcalled by roofers. Later, she meets one of them in a club, and they kiss. Her fiancé is away for the week. One thing leads to another. One might legitimately raise eyebrows at this, but the film gets away with it because it differs from standard fare in one crucial respect: the roofer is also a woman.

Copy picture

One of the joys of this film is that, for the most part, sexual orientation is irrelevant to the story. There's no dismissal of bisexuality and no critique of gtold star lesbians either. Homophobia is touched on only lightly (though the effect of this is to highlight the insipid way it can influence people's life choices, something often missed in less subtle films). In the context of the cinematic experience, however, sexual orientation really does matter, not least because there's a dearth of good films about lesbians out there. The very ordinariness of the story raises questions about its rarity.

As if making up for cinema's lost opportunities, Below Her Mouth packs an extraordinary amount of sex into an hour and a half of screentime and a week long affair. After the unintentional hilarity of Blue Is The Warmest Colour it's a relief to see lesbian sex that is erotic, fits the characters, and actually looks like the real thing. The downside for the characters, of course, s that when sex gets this intense it's very hard to walk away from it (and not just literally so). With Jasmine determined that she won't risk her planned marriage, and the roofer, Dallas (Erika Linder) aware of this from the outset, the two soon reach crisis point, trying to ignore the reality of what is happening between them, unable to reconcile that reality with their wider world.

Linder is paticularly impressive as a troubled young woman with a limited emotional vocabulary who seems to be dealing with feelings like these for the first time. This is her first film and one of the most impressive silver screen outings for a model to date. In the more conventional role, Krill exudes sweetness yet gives her character enough edge to remind us that she's fully aware of how damaging her choices might be to others. As the sidelined fiancé, Sebastian Pigott gets little screentime but succeeds in doing enough to make viewers feel for him as a man suddenly confronted with a situation in which he is completely out of his depth.

A simple story told well, this is an affecting piece of cinema that punches well above its weight. Despite the briefness of our encounter with them, the characters linger in the mind. Their discovery of one another has the impact of Weekend and is underscored with a joyousness altogether too rare in both art and life. You might not fall in love, but you'll enjoy the experience.

Reviewed on: 26 Apr 2017
Share this with others on...
Two women embark on a passionate affair that derails their lives.

Director: April Mullen

Writer: Stephanie Fabrizi

Starring: Daniela Barbosa, Elise Bauman, Sophie Blumenthal

Year: 2016

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: Canada

Search database:

If you like this, try:

Appropriate Behavior