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“Femme” Movie Review, Live Streaming & Download

femme 2024 (via Primetweets)

Written and directed by Ng Choon Ping and Sam H. Freeman, “Femme” is a complicated movie. Channeling old school revenge films with a slick look, its stylish yet conflicting approach is a tough look at anti-LGBTQ+ violence and what vengeance might look like. However, that’s where things get morally shaky and the answer to the question of “do two wrongs make a right?” only brings up more questions. 

Jules (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) is a show stopping drag performer with moves and style. He has friends who love him, like Toby (John McCrea) and Alicia (Asha Reid), and a clubful of cheering fans. After his performance, he steps out for a smoke and locks eyes with a shifty stranger across the street. Later, Jules crosses the same man, Preston (George MacKay), at a shop and the two trade insults after Preston mocks Jules. With his buddies cheering him on, Preston follows, beats, and humiliates Jules while one of them records the incident. The altercation has a lasting effect on Jules, who drops out of the club scene, starts to dress more masculine, and leaves behind his makeup for baggier clothes. But a chance encounter with Preston at a bathhouse presents Jules with the opportunity for revenge, and he takes it. 

“Femme” walks this complicated line between its revenge narrative and self-empowerment. Jules seduces Preston to film and humiliate him by posting their affair on a porn site, and by extension, publicly out him. In Jules’ mind, doing what Preston and his friends did to him is the equivalent of getting back at him. But isn’t outing a form of queer violence? “Femme” feels steeped in a quiet rage without getting as violent or outlandish as something like the rape revenge thriller “Ms. 45” but its seriousness with how it justifies Jules actions feels off. Based on a short film by the same title and filmmakers that follows a vaguely similar story of a Black queer man seducing another unsafe white man, I wonder why revenge for a queer person of color is to put themselves in harm’s way over and over again to publicly out a white self-hating homophobe? The experience seems retraumatizing even if it’s one step closer to Jules’ intended goal. Days later, I’m still unsure of how to feel, and the story’s moral dilemma— especially how it plays out and leads to its final scene—looks no clearer. 

Despite its ethically murky undertones, directors Ng Choon Ping and Sam H. Freeman frames a pretty sleek picture with cinematographer James Rhodes. The club looks straight out of a music video, the bath house is awash in a neo noir blue, and Jules’ home feels warm when his friends are in it or when basking in a candlelit bath. The lighting is so exact, it sometimes mirrors Jules’ emotions, like a chilling fluorescent light to illustrate how unsafe and isolated Jules feels, or when he’s in the light of the TV glow escaping with a round of video games. Even banal street scenes look good enough for a magazine photoshoot. This is not the grimy ‘sploitation revenge movies of yesteryear. “Femme” is polished and cool—even the images themselves feel seductive. 

“Femme” is complicated for many reasons, be it for Jules’ revenge saga or when following his healing as he navigates how to outwardly present himself after the events of that brutal night. We see his pain as he withdraws from friends and retreats from the person he was. We see the physical violence he receives from Preston’s fists and kicks in bloody close ups. Both Stewart-Jarrett and MacKay do a remarkable job wrestling with their character’s inner and outer conflicts, but so much of “Femme” is about the pain of queer life, that it leaves out its joy. Eventually, we see what it means to reclaim power and identity from hate, but it’s a difficult road to get there and Jules’ method may not work for everyone.

Femme movie poster

Femme (2024)

Rated NR

99 minutes

Cast

Nathan Stewart-Jarrettas Jules

George MacKayas Preston

Antonia Clarkeas Molly

Moe Bar-Elas Donovan

Nima Taleghanias Bijan

John Leaderas Calvin

Aaron Heffernanas Oz

John McCreaas Toby

Director

  • Sam H. Freeman
  • Ng Choon Ping

Writer

  • Sam H. Freeman
  • Ng Choon Ping

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