Just in time for World Pride, Vimeo has released three short films that explore contemporary queer life through lesbian, gay, and transgender narratives. Each under 13 minutes, these films have received varying forms of recognition—Vimeo Staff Picks, festival official selections, and short film awards—but are only now available for public consumption.
Dive into the throes of young love in this is a teenage love letter, the complex intricacies of a thrupple in Lavender, and the excitement and terror of a meet-cute in Waking Hour.
this is a teenage love letter
We don’t know much about Katherine (Ella J-F) and Isa (Elysse Shirley), the young queer women at the center of this two-hander. “Are you ready to fly back?” one asks. Though it’s never made clear whether the couple is studying abroad or on vacation in the other’s country, there’s magic in the unknowing.
Tessa Hill’s short film this is a teenage love letter is a breathing poem, a microscopic look at a poignant goodbye that is never teary or overacted. So lyrical is this short that it seems to exist out of time altogether, and yet time is the narrative’s biggest constraint—Katherine and Isa will need to separate, return to their homes, and move on from their short fling.
In her voiceover at the end of the film’s aching six minutes, Katherine narrates, “I live in the past now.” It’s not an unfamiliar sensation for anyone who has tried to unglue themselves from a first love. Heartbreaking as those moments are, Hill’s short is a balm for the pain.
Perhaps the most well-known of the three films, Lavender made a splash at Sundance earlier this year and stars renowned theater and TV actors Ken Barnett, Michael Hsu Rosen, and Michael Urie. The film navigates the shifting dynamics of a New York thrupple: Arthur (Urie), his husband (Barnett), and their younger lover Andy (Rosen). Refreshingly, Matthew Puccini’s film never dissolves into a screaming match over who in the thrupple holds the most power.
Instead, it captures the little details that illuminate the fissures of an ambiguous relationship: the husbands wear their wedding rings during sex with Andy; at Arthur’s birthday party, Andy stands in the back, separated from the husbands and their friends; one morning, Andy finds a suspicious patch of lavender paint on a spare bedroom wall. And yet: The three of them share meals, sing together around a piano, and rinse, wash, and dry dishes as a trio.
Does Andy want Arthur and his husband’s life, or does he just want to be a part of it? Either way, the prospect of a child—the paint, the spare room, the new toys that dot the handsome townhouse—is pushing him away. Puccini captures what simmers beneath the surface of beautiful brownstones, where some gay men have found comfort and home.
The terrain Nava Mau’s short explores is far richer and more sociologically complex than what, on the surface, could be misconstrued as a film about a bad hookup. Packed with two reveals in 12 minutes, the film is a slow-burn nightmare, one that is both enlightening and terrifying.
It’s difficult to discuss the film without sharing at least the first reveal, which is that Sofia (also played by Mau) is a trans woman. Sofia is confidant, sexy, and clear-headed, and after meeting Isaac (Rafael Cabrera) at a party, the seductive stranger wants to take her home. You get the sense this isn’t the first time Sofia has had to navigate how to reveal her identity and risk rejection—which she experiences during their Uber ride. He, it turns out, is “not cool with that.”
Or so it seems. A second reveal is too rich and nuanced to spoil, but it leads to an adrenaline-fueled fever dream that is quiet and catastrophic. Mau’s film is expertly marked by three moments of privacy where Sofia steps out and checks in with herself. These quiet scenes show Sofia’s progression from flushed excitement to concerns over self-agency. It raises questions about why men presume sex is their right, and the ways in which marginalized groups navigate safety in intimacy.