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.
Saturday Sept. 10, 9:30pm @ Isabel Bader Theatre
Thursday Sept. 14, 7:45pm @ Scotiabank 2