The 35th Annual New York LGBTQ+ Film Festival—better known as NEWFEST—ran this year from October 12-24. Over 120 films were presented, including features, shorts, and documentaries, in several venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn, as well as select streaming services. NEWFEST justly touts itself as the “largest presenter of LGBTQ+ film & media and the largest convener of queer audiences in the city.” The menu was too large to taste more than a sampling, but to whet your appetite, let me mention such documentary entries as Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project about the African American poet, writer, and activist, and Hidden Master: The Legacy of George Platt Lynes, a rich accounting of the glamorous 20th-century gay photographer’s marvelously theatrical images in velvety black and white.
Here then, a sampling of feature films which should prove widely available in theaters or on streaming platforms over the next months:
The sole two inhabitants of a newly-built apartment block in London befriend each other. Adam (Andrew Scott), writing a screenplay alone at night, is at first tentative when Harry (Paul Mescal), rings his bell to introduce himself. Harry’s practiced ease and sly charm disarms Paul, who invites him in. Thus begins a wary breakdown of Adam’s defenses against exposing his vulnerability in the form of admitting the possibility of their romantic love. As their friendship develops, the two loners share emotional and sexual intimacy, testing Adam’s reserve. This delicate “dance” of opposites is written and played in a register of cinematic realism. But when Adam travels to the suburb where he grew up, he seeks out his parents’ snug house to find his long dead parents at home. They invite him in. What would otherwise be a supernatural event is handled in the film as an ordinary visit, although Mum (Claire Foy) and Dad (Jamie Bell), remain the ages they were when they died, when Adam was twelve years old. We follow Adam as he moves between these two worlds—in London, where he and Harry develop a deepening bond, and out of town, where Adam and his parents become cautiously reacquainted, Adam is still haunted by deficits of parental intimacy and tenderness. The performances are pitch-perfect, with all four actors playing in harmony and achieving the delicacy of a string quartet. The story ends in an unexpected, yet quite logical place. Kudos also to the use of “Always on My Mind” by the Pet Shop Boys.
Allen Ellenzweig, a longtime contributor to this magazine, is a cultural writer based in New York City.