Tara Thorne’s film Compulsus is a love story in a twisted way. Here, Wally (Lesley Smith) meets Lou (Kathleen Dorian), both being lesbians trying to balance their work life in halifax. The balance is there sometimes, since they know each other from Lou going to one of Wally’s poetry readings. In the short time that they know each other, they go on a few dates and break up and reunite, that reunion leading to them ending up in bed together. Pillow talk can get serious sometimes. But theirs is more serious since Wally discloses that she’s the one physically attacking men (James MacLean). Men the community know for sexually assaulting women. In learning this, Lou tells Wally that there are legal channels to take care of this kind of thing. Recent news teaches us that legal channels are unreliable, but does that inequality justify Wally’s new found vigilantism?
Reviewing films like Compulsus seem difficult because I am obviously not a lesbian. However, four out of five movies I’ve seen at this festival have lesbian protagonists/ participants, some of them on the ‘butch’ side of things, and I liked those movies. Sure, I’d love to read female critiques of this film. But how am I and male critics and cinephiles going to learn about people outside of ourselves if we don’t watch movies outside of ourselves? The empathy machine comes to mind, and the more I think of it, this movie needs more of it. Not just for the men they’re attacking, who by the way, are a boring group of people to defend. I have a mix of feelings about Lou as well because the movie invalidates her feelings and she’s also a ‘don’t do the brave thing’ archetype. As a sexual assault survivor, this movie isn’t it.
Compulsus premiered on June 3.