“TREACLE” is a short-film that premiered at last month’s BFI Flare: London LGBTQ+ Film Festival directed by Rosie Westhoff. The story, written by April Kelley who also stars alongside Ariana Anderson follows two friends Jessie and Belle. Jessie is somewhat reeling from a recent break-up with her boyfriend, so they head out for a weekend of fun to get her mind off things. Drinks are had and when Jesse initiates a physical encounter with Belle who is a bisexual the slip-up could come at the cost of their friendship.
Many often think a short-film cannot tell a full story. However, I believe films like this one prove that is not the case. This film is able to capture all the elements needed to explore the full spectrum of its narrative. The plot centers on two characters whose layered friendship is solidified simply through the performances. Their interactions, their mannerisms, and the non-sexual intimacy they share with one another portrays a friendship that has been through years of development. The chemistry between Kelley and Anderson captures this perfectly from a visual aspect through their performances. This allows the dialogue to move the story forward not having to build backdrop. Something that is crucial for the success of a short-film when time is limited.
This is the writing debut of April Kelley but I would be willing to bet a round drinks that she has been writing for awhile now behind-the-scenes because this was a very capable script. Every line of dialogue needs to mean something in a short-film, especially one with an emotional rooted message and Kelley accomplishes this with her script. This film is 18 minutes long, it moves quickly and when the end credits roll as the viewer you are left looking back at how things evolved. There are certain lines that stick out as having much more meaning than one would initially take from hearing the statements in natural conversation. As Belle and Jessie converse throughout the day about various things including relationships, the future and their sexual preferences it builds the mindset of each. The different perspectives both of them have on life is nicely blended into the fabric of the friendship.
The story then makes a sudden shift. Jessie makes a pass at Belle who initially resists but soon goes along with it. It’s a heartwarming and equally awkward exchange between two long time friends who were under the influence of some alcohol and emotional intensity. But how Jessie reacts after is a shocking realization that she doesn’t truly know her friend, but she also doesn’t understand or respect what it means to be a bisexual. Being open to sexual preference doesn’t mean a person is closed off to feeling love, or having their heart broken. It wasn’t something done with malicious intent on Jessie’s part, but it did show a lack of thought and compassion towards being bisexual.
This story explores the possibility that Belle being bi was a subconscious invitation for Jessie to experiment during a time of instability in her love life. Knowing she was not interested in women and knowing Belle could ‘go either way’ were two things Jessie was aware of. Something she wasn’t aware of was the possibility that Belle could have a deeper attraction to her. Because Jessie seemingly had never given thought to what a bisexual’s love, beyond the layers of sexual intimacy would shape up to be. If Belle was straight, or a lesbian, would Jessie still have made her advances? Or was Belle was being bi actually something Jessie took to mean Belle carried a casualness that meant she didn’t have the same feelings like anyone else? These were all thought provoking layers that I felt shaped up nicely and with a very unassuming delivery in this film.
Wrapped around the subject-matter was well-crafted direction and cinematography. I thought the lighting created a warm atmosphere that complemented the story nicely to lure the viewer in both visually and mentally. The musical score infused the narrative with energy in strong doses and there is a capability to the technical side that is subtle but more than effective for capturing the heartfelt message of the story. One that will possibly open your eyes to the nuances of being a bisexual that you may have never contemplated.