CBC Canada asked 7 Canadian women being celebrated at TIFF this year.
At the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this week, Telefilm Canada and Birks partnered for the 4th annual Birks Diamond Tribute, which honoured 12 women working in the Canadian film industry : directors Tracey Deer, Ann-Marie Fleming, April Mullen, Léa Pool and Ann Shin ; actors Amanda Crew, Caroline Dhavernas, Christine Horne, Sandra Oh and Jennifer Podemski; and scriptwriters Emma Donoghue and Marie Vien.
The women were selected by a pan-Canadian jury of 20 journalists and bloggers covering the world of arts, culture and entertainment, and collectively they certainly have much to celebrate. But looking at the 91 features to come out of Canada in 2013-’14, a study by ‘Women in View’ found that 22 per cent of those movies were written by women, and just 17 per cent were made by female directors. It’s clear that discussion surrounding the issues facing women in the industry needs to continue – which is why CBC Arts asked seven of the women being honoured at TIFF to chime in on what the Canadian industry can do to set a higher bar for women in film.
What do you think differentiates being a Canadian woman in film from being an American woman in film? What are the pros and cons ?
April Mullen: Being a Canadian woman in the entertainment industry has all the challenges you’d find crossing any border. The percentages are low across the board when it come to women in film and that’s a fact; however, I tend to focus on supporting and celebrating women that are succeeding and breaking through. I feel it is important to strive for more of a balance in terms of a female perspectives which includes all aspects : unique scripts and stronger female characters and directorial voices.
I believe if the younger generation starts to see celebrated women in film and awareness is amplified, then we are on track to give them the courage it takes to know it’s possible. If you see it, you believe. At a younger age this makes a huge impact for young creators. It is a long term goal where we now are the trailblazers to a more balanced industry.
What do you think we need to do as a collective industry — and society — to make Canada set the bar even higher for women in film ?
The bar is set high and we are here – now it’s time to allow creative freedom and be sure that Canadians see Canadian cinema and talent. Strive to foster a new generation of women and celebrate the ones that have been the trailblazers.
Who is another woman in film — Canadian or otherwise — that you really admire and why ?
Andrea Arnold. I just saw American Honey in Cannes and it shook my soul — I have not stopped thinking about the standout raw moments in that film.
Source : CBC Canada (19.09.2016)
Once in a blue moon, a person can look at you across a crowded space and strike a chord very deep inside of you. The sound that reverberates through your body when they do seems to ask you over and over “what if.. ?.”
What happens if you find out the answer to that question… even just once ?
‘Below her mouth’ introduces us to Jasmine (Natalie Krill). A well-heeled fashion editor with a great car, posh house, and handsome fiancee… the sort of woman who seemingly “has it all”. When her man goes out-of-town, Jasmine and a girlfriend hit up a lesbian bar on a Friday night. It’s there that she meets Dallas (Erika Linder), a roofer who she caught a glimpse of working on the house next door that morning.
The two are drawn together; Dallas feeling an undeniable attraction, and Jasmine fighting a “I’ve never done this before” hesitancy. One kiss becomes two, two becomes three. Soon Jasmine can’t concentrate on anything else and an actual date is set.
Over the course of one weekend, the women become deeply intertwined; sexually and emotionally.
Director April Mullen has added something beautiful to the landscape of film. Her love story – capture by a crew comprised entirely of women – feels truer, messier, and more vulnerable than most of what passes for romantic cinema these days. She knows that sometimes we grab hold of something awkwardly in a fit of passion, and that sometimes we say something silly the next morning.
She wants to use it all; give it all the full treatment and paint a new picture of what love-at-first sight means in the city I call home.
If I’m left with a question for Dallas and Jasmine, it’s this: ‘Below her mouth’ leaves no question about their sexual chemistry. In the heat of their moments, these two women are as-one; they slip into a give-and-take that most lovers can only dream of. Their sensual prayers are answered thanks to a whole lot of delicious sin. There is no question there. Instead, my question is this : what comes next ?
I have a pretty good clue what happens on Saturday night – what’s the feeling on Sunday morning ?
The filmmakers of ‘Below her mouth’ paint this as a love story – a declaration of bravery when we are strong enough to recognize love in all its forms. What is portrayed on-screen though is more like infatuation. Deep infatuation, and emotional infatuation to be sure…but more like craving, and less like completion.
Seeing Dallas and Jasmine try to cope with the absence of the other is intense, raw, and wonderfully understated. However, we are denied a glimpse at just what is truly missing. I believe those conversations took place – that there were more scenes at cafe tables, kitchen tables, boardwalks, and sidewalks – but we never see them, and so we’re left to take an emotional leap.
All in all, ‘Below her mouth’ is a good movie. It’s handsome, charged, splendid and sexy… but it could have been a great movie. There is no question what draws Dallas and Jasmine together; but there is much to be explored over what keeps them there.
Source : The Matinee (17.09.2016)
The benefits of an all-female crew : how the women behind ‘Below her mouth’ made intimacy tangible by April Mullen
” ‘Below Her Mouth‘, the TIFF-premiering feature that I directed, was shot with an all-female crew. This allowed each department to bring unique female perspectives and raw sensibilities to the screen, giving the film a vulnerability and boldness that I’d never seen before.
I believe the results of having an all-female crew can be seen on the screen. On set were able to create a supportive environment that allowed every woman to stay true to themselves, and the voice of the film is so strong and honest because of that.
With Below Her Mouth, I wanted to bring to life something audiences had never seen before on screen: an honest depiction of a female’s perspective on desire, love, intimacy, sex and heartbreak. The goal was to capture an electrifying moment of intense chemistry between two people when they least expect it. We get to follow our leads on this escape, a journey of heightened pleasure and deep emotion. The film itself is a whirlwind, all happening over the span of three days. We see the physical relationship and connection between our leads, Dallas (Erika Linder) and Jasmine (Natalie Krill), borne of the need to be close to another human being. Their coming together changes their lives completely. I always found fascinating the fact that we have the ability to fall in love with someone that quickly and have no control over it. I’ve recently experienced this kind of love and could relate to the characters and script in a strong way.
The decision to bring on an all female crew was an easy one: We wanted to depict the film via a “female gaze”—everything from the tone, to the feel, to the intimacy of the sex scenes. It gave the film as a whole an authentic female perspective. It also brought to life a feeling of being a part of something bigger than the film, giving the female voice a stamp on the screen. It was important for all of us on the film to expose ourselves (our fears, our comforts, our strengths, etc.) in order to creatively be transparent with the material.
The female voice, desires, all things sexual (all the way down to the female orgasm) are seldom represented in film, television and advertisements. Ninety-nine percent of my exposure to sex in film, TV and media is written by a man, directed by a man, and made to turn men on. This fact was something that was always on my mind while filming Below Her Mouth. I struggled to stay true to my inner sense of sexuality as a woman, and create a filmic narrative that was free from the usual tropes you would normally see in a male-driven film. I had to constantly remind myself to forget all of the “movie sex” I had seen before. Instead, I reflected inwardly on what turned me on as a woman—what my inner desires were, what made me want to be physical with another person. These are the moments I wanted to bring to the screen.
Once I had my vision intact, I relied heavily on the voices and creativity of my female crew. In prep, DP Maya Bankovic and I worked on our lighting palettes after our locations were chosen. We wanted each sex scene to have a very different and distinguishable look that matched the emotional journey between Jasmine and Dallas at each stage of their relationship. Our sex scenes needed to feel organic, like you were watching them unfold in real time. The lighting needed to embrace a woman’s perspective. It had to feel cinematic, yet not overstated, to amplify the intensity of the performance without ever taking away from our leads. I never wanted it to be about frontal lighting, with which we would see every inch of our performer’s bodies. Rather, I wanted to focus on the connection between the actresses.
We decided Dallas’ world would use a bold palette of reds and blues in her apartment while alone. While Jasmine was at Dallas’, we would use warmer light so she would feel more comfortable and safe. To achieve this, we had one warm source backlight on the bed during the first night sex scene. In contrast, the day sex scene was more exposed, using natural sunlight, as Dallas and Jasmine got closer and trusted one another more. For our final sex scene we used a chandelier to create intense, messy, animalistic lighting that matched the deep yearning and loss our characters were experiencing at that point in the film. I worked with as much natural and practical light as possible, allowing reflections, wall color and shading to help shape the visual tone.
Atmospherically, I wanted to create a sexy, safe place that gave us stunning visual images without ever distracting from the actors and the delicate moments on screen. I didn’t the film to feel polished and perfect. If there was an out-of-focus moment or a camera bump while we were with our actresses in the heat of the moment, it didn’t matter to me; as long as the performances were genuine and magic was happening, I let the camera roll. As a director, I would rather do one or two takes with moments of imperfection and keep everything fresh and unpolished, then do 10 takes and lose the rawness of the moment. Nothing in the film was over-covered, quite the opposite: I let the scenes and shots breathe on set. I wanted everything to feel unobtrusive.
Setting the stage was also a crucial piece of the puzzle to amplify the female touch. For example, production designer Faye Mullen created and installed a metallic wall that reflected light toward our actresses’ bodies and city movements outside the large window. Faye then matted and sprayed down a mirror that she positioned as the headboard for Dallas’ bed, to create depth and allow for some unique shots that wouldn’t seem overly composed.
Another reason why an all female crew was essential to Below Her Mouth? I truly believe that because of our crew, Erika and Natalie were able to let go even further when it came to their performances. They felt safe, trusting and open at all times on set, and were willing to let go physically and emotionally. They needed to connect on a level that transcended normal expectations between co-stars on a film. They needed to indulge in each other and allow their raw feelings to surface. Having an all-female crew made all the difference in the world. There was never any judgment; only encouragement and respect for what Erika and Natalie were bringing to the screen. We were all in awe of their performances.
Natalie, Erika and I spent so much time together, discussing every detail of the film in advance: all questions, motivations and blocking. This bonding time made for a seamless workflow and comfort on set. We were also strongly supported by writer Stephanie Fabrizi and producer Melissa Coghlan at all times, which helped us stay true to our original vision of the film. The five of us hold on to our connection dearly.
True love and its effects are such a difficult phenomenon to depict on screen, and it was a blessing that we were able to give this particular story a female voice. I am so proud of what we achieved with Below Her Mouth. The thin lens, zero filter and female touch can be felt in every frame. I can’t wait to bring every moment of it to audiences around the world.”
Below Her Mouth premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.
Source : Movimaker Magazine (16.09.2016)
This evening, Telefilm and Birks will come together during TIFF to celebrate Canada’s top talent at the fourth annual Birks Diamond Tribute to this Year’s Women in Film. Meet honouree April Mullen, whose film, Below Her Mouth, received well-earned praise at its world premiere this past weekend at TIFF.
Previously, Dead Before Dawn 3D marked Mullen as the first-ever woman to direct a live-action stereoscopic 3D feature and took home the Perron Crystal Award. Her other films include 88, which has sold in over twenty-two territories, and Badsville, slated to begin its festival run this year.
You have been selected as one of twelve women to be honoured by Telefilm and Birks. How does that feel?
It’s an honour to be listed alongside these incredibly talented and diverse women. The importance in celebrating Canadian talent is so crucial, as it creates awareness and new motivation with the younger generation. I feel humbled and thrilled and can’t wait to sport some fabulous diamond bling!
What did you love most about the all-female crew for Below Your Mouth?
I love the fact that our original quest to create a female perspective of what love and sex look like has been achieved. The lighting, the production design, the editing style, the music, the colours, the wardrobe, the sound design, the score, all the way to the bed – it was all created by raw female voices. I love that we collaborated and worked our asses off together to bring audiences something new that will hopefully challenge the way they see things.
Over the course of your career, when you’ve felt frustrated, what has kept you moving forward?
The world does – moment-by-moment. It relentlessly speaks to me in creative images. This is a blessing and a curse, because I love creating so much that it’s always poking at me and pushing me to new places. I can be in the trenches for sixteen hours a day on-set, or stuck on a story point, and still feel addicted to the work. I always want to come back to it and find a solution. I want to share with people, give to the audience and show them the magic I see. I am mesmerized by human behaviour, connections and telling stories through moving images.
What is a recent lesson you learned?
Recently I’ve learned to let go. Let go of past ideas, moments and beliefs. I’ve learned to be free, run with the wind, celebrate where you are, be naughty once and a while, never forget your priorities, and observe.
What do you do when you need to recharge?
Go into nature, be in silence, or make out hardcore. Oh, and I love to travel and discover new worlds.
When do you feel most creative?
When I’m present. It’s like the world hiccups and creativity flows. When shot listing, I see the scenes play in my mind a million different ways and then I pick what serves the story and moment best. It happens in fast forward – it literally puts me in a trance.
What’s your favourite TIFF story to share?
For Below Her Mouth, we searched all year trying to find our Dallas and Jasmine – the two women who would bring the chemistry to life. We finally found them we introduced them to the world on the red carpet at the Remember premiere. Being on the carpet with writer Stephanie Fabrizi and producer Melissa Coghlan, I could not stop thinking about the film we were about to embark on. The anticipation and obsession I had for Erika Linder and Natalie Krill was ridiculous. I watched all of them that night – it was almost as though the moment froze because I knew everything was about to change. Then, I blew my family a kiss as they watched us enter the cinema.
What’s your best advice for women trying to make it in this biz?
Stay focused and if you want to create, do it every day. Take brave steps, big risks and don’t ever doubt that hard work pays off. Believe in making the impossible possible always, because ladies, it is. Find your voice and stay strong. Also, when you’re fresh out into the world, be sure to do what you want to do. If your goal is to direct, start directing. Do a short film or create your own work so you don’t get stuck in the system of slowly moving up.
What’s a career goal that you’re currently working towards?
I love the challenge of finding and bringing incredible and unique material to life. I plan on signing my soul away to another film and living it up big time.
Can you share with us the films that really influenced your life journey or perspective?
1. Edward Scissorhands. The love, the innocence, the creativity, the characters, the music and bold visual aesthetic never leave the back of my mind. The film is simple at its core, timeless and universal. When I saw this film I knew I’d spend a lifetime in this industry working to achieve something with such a strong impact.
2. American Honey. I just recently saw this in Cannes and it makes me want to scream and jump into the sky at how much I stand in awe. Its heavy impact and subtle statement on the world we live in is frightening and exhilarating at the same time. The electric moments between the characters were so natural and intense, I cannot shake the film since watching it…it was reinvigorating.
Source : She Does the City (12.09.2016)
One of the films that’s demanding the attention of queer women at the Toronto International Film Festival this year is most definitely ‘Below her mouth’. This sexy drama about two strangers who fall in love and lust over the course of a weekend is described by its director, April Mullen, as “a landmark in terms of its female gaze.” Let me tell you; her description is very telling (…)
AfterEllen.com: What attracted you to this script as a director?
April Mullen: When I first read the script I was blown away because I had never read anything like that before, in terms of its sex and its boldness and what happened between women. I loved that it was not a statement on anything. It was just love for love’s sake. And there wasn’t a huge turmoil or complex plot shifts. It was just this gorgeous depiction of this connection between two people and how that happens. I’m always so curious. I’ve been through that, and I always think, “How does it happen so fast and so ferociously that it changes your life forever?” That you can spend three days with somebody, and you literally jump into a whole new you and a whole new world, and you’re willing to go there. That really drew me to the material.
And there was these gorgeous moments of silence between them, and I felt I could bring a lot to the project. I felt I was ready to, as an artist, bring so much to the project in terms of sharing myself and my experiences and my female perspective with that take on what that instant is like when you meet somebody and sparks fly and you can’t live without them.
AE: How much of that was just a great script and how much of that was genuinely wanting to take on a queer love story as well?
AM: It was a bit of both. I feel so blessed that I was able to do a film like this because it’s not every day where a drama and a love story comes across your desk and it’s financed. I’ve been a genre girl, and I tend to always get pitched a lot of genre scripts because it sells, it’s international and, you know, they’re very successful. And they can be with a low budget and without stars.
So to be able to have a project with such substance and such depth and a special story and meaning to it, I felt incredibly blessed that the project came my way. It was definitely a challenge and something I had never tackled before, at all, in any way, shape or form. But I knew that I had a lot of that side waiting to come out of me, and I couldn’t wait to explode that onto the screen. I was dying for material that was this beautiful and this deep and this honest and raw.
AE: You made this film with an all-female crew. Can you tell me about when the decision to do so was made, who was involved in that conversation and why this was so important to your team?
AM: The decision was made right away. Very, very early on. Our original goal for this film was to show audiences something they had never seen before on screen. Because most of what we experience in terms of the general public and as audience members is predominately sex directed by men, written by men, and usually to turn men on. Now that’s fine because that’s just the way society is and it’s been like that for a really long time. But we really felt underrepresented in terms of the female perspective of what is sex for us, what defines our pleasures, our desires, What turns us on? And how is that depicted onscreen? If it was written by a woman, if it could be directed by a woman, played for women, and if we could have every key person creatively giving that female touch throughout the whole film, what would that look like? What would that truly look like? So that was our goal, was to really bring something new and fresh to the screen. We didn’t know what it would be or how it would turn out. You could only hope for the best and hope that everybody is bold enough and brings the most honest depiction of themselves creatively to the screen. I feel like we were successful in that original intention.
That’s what’s so exciting. It was difficult to find an all-female crew. It wasn’t easy. We’re talking everybody top to bottom. And there are very few females in the entertainment industry and in general, let alone the crew and behind the scenes. So we really worked for five months on never giving up on this idea of finding every single position to be a female. On the floor and behind the scenes. Even for score, editing. Everything. It was so important for us to stay true to our original intention. Everyone was involved in that decision and it happened very early on.
AE: Are you at all worried that the film will be viewed by some as too sexually graphic?
AM: I think it is a really truthful depiction of what happens when you meet somebody and that chemistry ignites this fire inside of your soul where you can’t get enough of the other person. Films only usually have one sex scene because that’s how it goes. But our film is literally about that. It’s about that spark, that chemistry that happens. And it’s amazing to be able to explore that and have several sex scenes between the girls because there’s a real journey. The first one’s about discovery and the unknown, the second one is about connection and quiet, intimate moments, and then the third one is about the raw, like animalistic impact of not wanting to let go of that person.
So I feel like every sex scene in the film offers a very different journey. Like they really are very, very different. And so I don’t think it’s repetitive in any way and I really feel that people will go on the journey with us. I don’t think they’ll step aside and think there was too much sex because I feel like it’s a celebration of freedom and lust and love and desire between two women. You’re so invested in the characters and the chemistry between the two of them and their entire arc of like growing with one another in that three-day span. That’s what you do. When you fall in love, you’re in bed and you just kind of don’t leave the room. You either order food in or eat a burger on the side of the road like I used to do. Like you just are so into the other person you can’t stand to leave them physically because you want to know everything about them and that’s how you get to know somebody initially.
AE: Do you believe most people will be quite aware of the female lens applied to Below Her Mouth?
AM: I think they will never have to be reminded because it’s so in their face. Like it’s so drastically different than anything I’ve ever seen before on screen. The quiet intensity between the two girls and the pauses and the moments of silence… Even the cutting style. The way it’s shot, the way it’s lit, and the choreography and the intensity between the two of them, it’s a landmark in terms of its female gaze. And I feel like there would be no mistaking it.
When you’re watching it, you will be able to feel it just because you’re so enwrapped in it. And you don’t know really what makes it different, but it’s so different and you just can’t help yourself but, you know, want to be drawn into the screen, rather than something coming out at you. It’s a film that really pulls you inwardly, and it pulls people into the journey between the two of them, rather than sort of gratuitous sex or hard impact things that usually jump out at the audience, and you feel like you should be watching it. This film feels like you shouldn’t be watching it because it’s so intimate, because it feels like you’re a fly on the wall, and you’re like witnessing a secret that you shouldn’t even really be a part of. So for those reasons alone, I feel like it will be pretty obvious that, whether it’s female or not, it’s just a unique depiction of love. And sex.
AE: Do you feel the movie takes on a new meaning the more you watch it?
AM: I’ve seen it like over a thousand times now. When I was watching it with the audience on the big screen, in surround sound, the montage where the day turns to night and you know that they’re leaving each other, I started crying. Unintentionally tears just started flowing down my face and I just thought of how beautiful and also how tragic love can be. That you can fall so deeply for someone and then you can also lose them. It’s like the fragility of life. And it’s so universal that when I watched it this time I just thought of its larger impact and how universal the theme of our film is. It’s not even about the sex. It’s about that depth in which human beings have the ability to let go and discover another human being. And we can only connect through physical contact. We have mental and spiritual, but this physical contact…
And then there’s also the tragedy side of losing that person and how fragile life is and that those things happen on a daily basis and how amazing that is. All of those things came into my head while I was watching the montage because it says, “I’m memorizing every part of you.” There’s such a tragedy to that line and also there’s such a sense of gratitude to that line. Like, “I can’t believe I’m feeling these sensations, but oh my god, what if they go away?” Those polarizing things just made me cry. And that never came to me before, so that was like a refreshing thought of the evening. So I do think that every time I watch it something new will jump out at me and have a heavy impact.
AE: From a recognizable gay Village bar to a scene in a very well known city strip joint, this film doesn’t hide the fact that it’s set in Toronto. Even Dallas, a Swede, living here makes total sense because of the city’s famed multiculturalism. So it’s appropriate that the film had its world premiere at TIFF, but I wanted to ask how important the city really is to the film. Could you see it being set anywhere else?
AC: I can’t because Toronto has such a sense of multiculturalism and freedom to it that it makes so much sense that these two feel comfortable enough to go there and fall head over heels in love with one another. Because the city itself it feels to me like it carries with it open arms. It’s a sense of surrender and no judgment. I feel like they would feel very comfortable in Toronto, and that’s so much of a blessing of where we live and where we’re from. I can’t see it set anywhere else besides Toronto because of those twinkling lights and that skyline. It’s very romantic the way we shot it. Even though it has the strip clubs and Church Street, there’s something very cinematic about it. It’s really alive. The city feels alive and like it’s breathing. And I feel like it matches the sex and the intensity between the two girls.
AE: Do you have any particular hopes for the film now that audiences and critics alike have seen it and can continue to see it?
AC: I hope it allows people to have a sense of freedom and break down any perceptions that they might have had going into it, or perceptions they might have had about love or reservations they might have had about same-sex relationships. And to me, if the film makes an impact in a person’s life, personally I feel like we’ve succeeded. And whether it’s one or a thousand, or it’s a strong review or a bad review, those things don’t matter to me as much as a filmmaker as if I make an impact in a single person’s life that day and make them feel comfortable to be who they are and walk the streets with pride. That means so much more to me.
A few really young girls in their twenties came up to me and just said, “Thank you. Thank you for giving us a voice and allowing us to feel comfortable. I can’t wait to show my friends. I feel comfortable coming out to my family.” Those things I hadn’t seen coming. I just feel like the film if it can make that kind of an impact, it’s done its job. Because that’s what our original intention was. So I’m not really worried about the industry and the financial successes as much as I’m so proud that it’s making personal impacts on people and their lives daily.
AE: Finally, can we expect to see you working on more LGBT-themed projects in the future? Either as an actor, director, or both?
AC: I certainly hope so. I would love to do any other projects. I’m not currently attached to any, but I’m definitely looking. If I’m blessed with a great script, and I’m definitely looking, I would be very honored to be a part of it. I think it’s a great community, and there’s not enough strong cinema out there for those voices, so I would love to put more on the screen.
Source : After Ellen (12.09.2016)
Dripping with lust layered on so thick that you can practically smell the sex, the lesbian relationship drama Below Her Mouth might be one of the most erotic and emotionally charged tales of attraction that Canada has ever produced.
Engaged fashion magazine editor Jasmine (Natalie Krill) has grown apart sexually and emotionally from her loving fiancée, and finds a large amount of sexual attraction and attention from commitment-phobic roofer, Dallas (Swedish model Erika Linder, asserting herself well in her first film). With Below Her Mouth actress turned director April Mullen (breaking out of a genre rut that she recently found herself in) and first time screenwriter Stephanie Fabrizi perfectly capture the early honeymoon days of a relationship where sexual attraction often overrules all other aspects of a healthy partnership.
Made with an all female crew on set, Below Her Mouth carries a unique feminine sensibility that men can’t capture. Mullen’s tightly crafted visual sensibilities, the chemistry between Krill and Linder, and Fabrizi’s intimately drawn characters elevate what could have easily fallen into the realm of male infantilism and wish fulfilment into a passionate, sexy, and resoundingly emotional character drama.
The amount of explicit sexual activity here threatens to be overwhelming at times, but it feels earned and in service of a greater point about sexual awakening. It’s a delicate balance few filmmakers can pull off with any degree of believability, but Mullen and Fabrizi deserve all the kudos in the world for making it feel wholly authentic.
Is Below Her Mouth essential festival viewing?
Yes. It’s one of the most daring and provocative Canadian films in recent memory.
Source : Toronto Film Scene (11.09.2016)
Below Her Mouth is a daring and emotional film that finally gets right what so many queer films get wrong. Rather than dwelling on the simple fact that two women are sexually involved, something that’s not necessarily exciting to those who are on a daily basis, these characters are defined more by their personalities and the way they interact. The film is sexually explicit, to be sure, but that sexuality is given more credence because it goes beyond novelty and more toward exploring how deep one can connect with another person they’ve just met. It touches on something more daring and more fascinating than most films of this ilk: the seemingly uncontrollable pull toward another person that requires complete vulnerability and openness.
Below Her Mouth follows Dallas (Erika Linder), an emotionally unattainable carpenter who treats women as prey and has a difficult time committing to anyone or anything. While working on a job, Dallas meets Jasmine (Natalie Krill) and the fascination and attraction is as instant as it is all consuming. Jasmine, who is engaged to a man, has a difficult denying her attraction to Dallas and the two engage in an amorous affair. Their relationship forms quickly as if neither is entirely in control, and it begins to have real implications of both of their lives. The film begs the question: is it possible to have a love so intense it can’t survive?
The connection between the two leads on screen is palpable and their comfort with one another makes the erotic scenes feel more natural and organic. In this way, the relationship between Dallas and Jasmine is less about their gender and more about the possibilities of their sexuality. While sleeping with women might be new for Jasmine, opening up emotionally is as new for Dallas, making their affair seem exciting and new beyond the typical coming out narrative.
The sex scenes, of which there are many, somehow manage to lack the same kind of lingering camera work typical in films about female sexuality. Rather than depicting nudity as if it’s the ultimate payoff, the characters occupy more of natural state that feels innately comfortable over being explicitly sexualized. The film was made by women and it’s clear that it’s made for women, or at least those who want an alternative to the male-gaze.
Both Erika Linder and Natalie Krill are entirely captivating on screen, and while some lines may seem slightly stilted, their presence is almost tangible. Linder, who became famous a few years ago as the gender-bending model featured in menswear campaigns, shines in her role as a brooding, mysterious Shane-type. Linder should gain many new fans from this film.
Set design, lighting and costuming are especially on point. Linder and Krill are dressed precisely like a King West type wandering into a Back To Church event. Torontonians and Toronto queers alike will recognize staples such as Dundas Video, making the film feel like a quintessential addition to the local film scene.
If you can see Below Her Mouth at TIFF this year, you won’t regret it. Make sure to schedule enough time after the film to take a moment to yourself, it hits deep.
Source : Dork Shelf (11.09.2016)