In a film featuring a romance between two lesbians, some may be ready to dispense with the more mundane points of film criticism and ask “Do they get it on?” Well the answer is yes, but if you fast-forward to that particular scene you’ll be missing most of a compelling film with solid performances and largely unconventional characters.
Micki, convincingly played by Carol Monda, is the lesbian niece of Charlie an aging resident of Cape May, NJ. Charlie is dying and Micki has come to town to help care for him. Micki boldly wears her ragged, travel-worn leather jacket like a flag: A red flag to Uncle Charlie’s more stable friends in the close-knit community including Roberta (Joy Kelly), a part-time cook in the town’s diner and resident Air Force lesbian. Roberta is definitely not looking for action. Undaunted, Micki begins to court her and the exploration of the two women’s needs, desires and fears begins in depth.
The breadth and depth of character give this film much of its strength. Screenwriter Kim McNabb flexes her writing muscle by bringing realistic detail not just to critical leads Micki and Roberta, but to the otherwise incidental characters whom they touch. Dying relatives are often used as plot devices, catalysts for the action, but Dennis Fecteau’s Uncle Charlie has insights that become crucial to this plot. Shelley (Nancy Daly), the owner of a local diner, first turns a cold shoulder to Micki after she arrives in town. But the script isn’t lazy enough to make Shelley just a throwaway homophobe. A straight-laced stickler for decorum, Shelley genuinely cares about Roberta and distrusts the wanderlust in Micki, not the physical lust.
The challenges confronting Micki turn out to be internal. The people she butts heads with really want the best for her and the script does such a good job of setting up the romantic intervention of well-wishers. That’s why it’s frustrating to watch her be so thick in coming to terms with the motivations of her friends and family in the latter third of the film. At the start of the film Micki is confident and insightful and the final crisis and epiphany seems just a bit untrue to the character. You can rationalize it, but it feels forced.
While Buck may not avoid every conventional pitfall in telling this story, she has put together an appealing film that deals with death, romance and lesbian love without becoming maudlin, or gratuitous.