Review: Femme

Written and directed by Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping, when Jordan gets into the car of a flirtatious drug-dealer, his night takes a dangerous turn. Starring: Paapa Essiedu, Harris Dickinson, Theo Barklem-Biggs, Demmy Ladipo and Asha Reid.

The fantastic thing about Femme is that it gives you exactly what you expect and plenty that you don’t. Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping’s writing does a brilliant job of starting out on an even keel then ramping up the intensity with a highly satisfying speed. The story touches upon quintessential themes of queer cinema, predominantly protecting yourself from the stereotypically homophobic, who are looking for any excuse to do you harm. It’s gripping and has a delightfully dark edge.

Leading the way is an intriguing, complex portrayal from Paapa Essiedu, while there’s no time to learn much of his past Essiedudoes a superb job of quickly making him feel established and relatable. He’s kind, charming and an interesting mix of vulnerable and adventurous. Even in its relatively brief 18-minutes, it feels like he gets to show a number of different sides to Jordan, as well as creating a character you’d happily follow for hours let alone a handful of minutes. Both Essieduand the filmmakers did an impressive job of creating such a stand out character. EE Rising Star nominee Harris Dickinson shows why he earned the nomination here with an intense representation of classically closeted men, living in an environment ruled by toxic masculinity. It’s not his first foray into queer film and hopefully won’t be his last, he has a strong presence that’s a great addition to any cast.

Visually it equally matches the high quality of its other elements. A glamour meets thriller use of colour throughout, and the cinematography is especially strong. The direction has a great movement to it and has a lively, entrancing energy. It feels as though it adds a touch of youth to the mix, as well as enhancing the downward spiral of its story. The progression is done exceptionally well, the credits start rolling after what only feels like a few minutes, as it holds your attention wonderfully.

Femme is gripping, intense and unexpected, it may start out as you imagine but it’s ready to knock your guard down. Paapa Essiedu is a fantastically talented actor, no doubt his theatre background helped drive the presence and strength to this performance. The direction and cinematography take a suspenseful and thrilling story and up the ante with a huge energy and compelling atmosphere.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯½ | 9/10

Nominated for Best British Short Film at the EE BAFTAs 2022

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