Showroom Cinema: Film fizzles with passion


Chilean director Sebastián Lelio dazzled us all when his Oscar-winning film A Fantastic Woman was welcomed onto our screens in March earlier this year. It was a stunning portrait of grief, told through the eyes of a transgender woman as she mourns the death of her lover.

A Fantastic Woman broke boundaries with its honest portrayal of the bigotry faced by trans people - largely thanks to its breath-taking performance by Daniela Vega, and the all-too- rare decision to cast a trans person in a trans role.

Less than a year since the release of A Fantastic Woman, Lelio already has another offering for UK cinemas - his first English language feature, Disobedience.

Starring Rachel McAdams (About Time, The Notebook) and Rachel Weisz (Denial, My Cousin Rachel), Disobedience is a tale of forbidden love. It’s a rich drama following Ronit (Weisz), an estranged daughter of a rabbi who returns home to London following a family emergency.

Back on UK soil, she is reunited with her former lover Esti (McAdams), now a humble woman devoted to her young rabbi husband.

There is a tense atmosphere of repression that cuts through the film, and in that sense it shares a number of similarities with A Fantastic Woman: both are stories of women who have been misunderstood, rejected and oppressed by the communities around them, and both feature women fighting through their grief and pain for the right to love who they want, in the way that they want to.  

At its heart though, Disobedience is a rather different film: quietly devastating, it’s a story told with beautiful restraint - a reflection of the Orthodox community it portrays.

Underneath it’s surface, it fizzles with a powerful passion.

This all comes just a few weeks after the US distributor A24 released its new trailer for Lelio’s next film - Gloria Bell. The film is an English-language remake of his Chilean feature Gloria, this time starring Julianne Moore.

Gloria Bell centres a 58-year-old woman who accidentally finds love in the LA club scene. It’s a refreshingly honest look at female sexuality that doesn’t centre on a younger woman.

All of these films are deftly told, deeply complex portraits of different women. They are women under-seen on the big screen, who have strength but also flaws and weaknesses.

Somehow, in just a few years, Lelio has managed to roll out all of these deeply interesting female characters - webs of determination, sadness, desire and light.

It’s important to support work like this, while we wait for the rest of Hollywood to catch up.

Disobedience is screening at the Showroom Cinema from Friday 30th November.