Fantasia 2023: Our Review of ‘Femme’

Posted in Fantasia 2023 by - July 28, 2023
Fantasia 2023: Our Review of ‘Femme’

The story of my Fantasia 2023 has been “films that are smart and doing a number of things well, but may not entirely come together as a whole.” No film better exemplifies this than Femme, the feature debut of Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping.

Femme is also going to be the new favourite film of a very specific venn diagram of people who overlap between cinephiles and Rupaul’s Drag Race aficionados. Jules (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) is Aphrodite, a prominent queen within the London community. When she is violently assaulted on the street after the show by a thuggish drug dealer named Preston (George McKay), Jules falls into a depressive funk that consists of a lot of Street Fighter V. But things shift after Jules visits a bathhouse and sees Preston. From there, he beings to hatch a plan of revenge; humiliate Preston and expose him.

Femme’s greatest asset is the way it depicts masculinity as a prison. McKay’s performance in the film is nothing short of spectacular. Preston must give off the affect of performative masculinity, but it must also be a veneer. We have to see though the façade; we have to feel sympathy for the fact that he can never escape. We must also recognize his capacity for violence, in order to recognize the inherent dangers that Jules faces. One false move, and Preston’ll go over the edge. Who knows what he’s capable of then.

Violence is inherent to how Femme operates; yet, the film’s central question is “when you remove the performance of gender, what becomes ‘the real deal’?” I don’t quite know if this ever really answers that. In a way, this matches the film. Femme is stylish; cinematographer James Rhodes’s use of mood lighting is impeccable. However, when the veneer is removed, does it really have an answer? Is it really the real deal?

This post was written by
Thomas Wishloff is currently an MA student at York University. He is new to the Toronto Film Scene, but has periodically written and podcasted for several now defunct ventures, and has probably commented on a forum with you at some point. The ex-Edmontonian has been known to enjoy a good board game, and claims to know the secret to the best popcorn in the world.
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