Director: Rosie Westhoff
Screenwriter: April Kelley
Starring: Ari Anderson, April Kelley, Alex Parker
Gifting a voice to the B in LGBT, Rosie Westhoff’s Treacle (2019) short film centred around the road trip of two twenty-something women, from screenwriter-star April Kelley and Mini Productions, is a delicately provocative, smartly orchestrated love story wrapped in a gorgeous colour pallet and played to a unique soundtrack that will ring through your ears long after the credits role. This exploration of platonic love and romantic love, and the effects each has on being a bisexual in a society that still insists upon tagging it as “just a phase”, brings to the fore a personal tale about what happens when those two forms of love become entangled from different perspectives, producing 18 minutes or so of “sink your heart into it” california love absolutely worthy of a rewatch.
The most striking aspect of Treacle early on is its abundance of life and energy, the frame filled with movement in the foreground and the background as Kelley’s Belle approaches Jessie’s (Anderson’s) house in a relatively quick-cut sequence of ordinary behaviour that the female-led vocals of RAYE’s “I, U, Us” burst through with a feeling that encapsulates the artist’s intention of seeking to empower yourself, an important aspect as regards the character and the story as a whole. It’s an opener that immediately delivers the feel of the piece; an intimate road movie around the freedom of youth and the difficulties of romance, all from a detailed, naturalistic place.
The picture’s gorgeous colour pallet, which emulates the glory of decades passed through beaming yellows and bright blues, and is complimented by the setting of California, is important in creating the film’s vibrancy too, its mix with snap cuts, and the use of (and placement of) a lens with an almost voyeuristic insight into the characters’ lives, bringing together an audio-visual concoction that is not only great to look at and celebratory of its central sexuality, but comes to tell a tale within itself, empowering the message at the heart of the film’s narrative.
In telling the story of two friends driving across state to pitch up in a holiday home for the evening, Treacle manages to encapsulate a love story, from love’s exciting conception to its erotic peak and right through to its very end, this universally accessible structure being the skeleton for a film that uses its support to offer suppositions on more complex and contemporary issues without ever losing track of its identifiable central romantic arc. This works in Treacle’s favour two-fold as it first allows for an access point for the viewer to identify with by placing them in the position of the bisexual protagonist (much to the movie’s remit), and secondly offers a strong through-line for the film to follow from beginning to end, allowing the short to be paced about as immaculately as you’ll see in the form.
“I bet if I was a lesbian, this wouldn’t have even happened. I bet if I was a dude, it’d be a non-f**king-issue.”
The beating heart of the film is April Kelley whose bisexual lead is wholly engaging, believable and identifiable, her life and strength of character underpinned by an insecurity that Kelley subtly teases into the performance in nothing short of an exemplary effort. Her chemistry with co-star Ari Anderson is, by the same token, entirely watchable, the duo’s chemistry radiating in the same glow of the California sun as they transition between energetic exuberance and distant awkwardness, each performer bringing to the table a gateway to the subject that is wholly emotional and of the highest order.
Made with the cooperation of the Bisexual Resource Center, Treacle had clear and honest intentions that it certainly delivered, and in offering them in such a mature and naturalistic way through a down to earth script and dialogue that often crossed over between the two characters, Belle and Jessie came across like real, ordinary people with a small but significant story that was entirely worthy of engagement; the work across all aspects of this short film offering the point of view of a part of our community we don’t often lend a voice to nor have access to seeing. Without stigma or stereotypes, and without preaching too loudly, Treacle offered something new, something unique and something great. This short film is a must watch piece of cinema.
You can watch the trailer for Treacle on Youtube – here.