Throughout Freeheld we are reminded of how people are so often a combination of the ordinary and the extraordinary.
A fictional account of the Oscar-winning 2007 documentary short of the same name, Freeheld is the true story of police detective Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore) and her fight to transfer her pension benefits to her domestic partner Stacie Andree (Ellen Page) after being diagnosed with cancer.
Director, Peter Sollettt (Raising Victor Vargas) shows us the typical courtship of a couple in love. And yet they are unusual: a respected, 25-year veteran of the force and an exceptionally talented young mechanic. We see their ordinary home, and the extraordinary effort they make to ensure that Stacie has the right to keep it.
Along the way we meet Stacie's boss, a regular garage shop owner, who goes an extra mile to first hire her and then support her when her relationship with Laurel hits the news. Laurel's gruff detective partner similarly goes out on a number of limbs to help the pair lobby for justice within the police force and the political system of Ocean County, New Jersey.
This is an engaging film, with engaging characters and solid performances. Sollett moves the story along with a mix of tension and humour. The collage of photos of the actual Hester and Stacie at the end of the film is a nice touch that again reminds us that real-life ordinary people did this extraordinary thing.
Ostensibly about abortion and a woman’s right to choose, Grandma is really a comedic and yet surprisingly touching perspective on the passage of time and the various roads not taken in life.
In her first leading film role since Big Business in 1988, Lily Tomlin plays acerbic poet and feminist Elle Reid, who has just finished breaking up with her girlfriend, paying off her debts and cutting up her credit cards in a bout of life simplification, when her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) shows up at the door needing $600 to pay for an abortion.
The pair spend the day trying to get their hands on the cash as their unannounced visits to Elle’s friends and flames end up rattling skeletons and providing glimpses into facets and chapters of her life. We first see Grandma in a cruel moment, but right off the bat we are on her side, rooting for her to love and be loved, make friends and influence people, and just be happy!
Often her outspokenness starts off fearless and inspiring, and then it charges over the top, leaving the viewer wincing at the ill-hidden rage and impatience. Yet in spite of our discomfort, she seems somehow worth sticking with, and her friends and relations in the film clearly share our conflicted views.
Those of us who are aging can take a few lessons from Elle; things to aspire to, and things to let go of. Lily Tomlin's Elle is a sturdy, funny and vulnerable character. She is good to spend some time with.
Yukon Queer Film Alliance has six films on the program for its OUT North festival, which runs April 15 – 17 at the Beringia Centre. For complete information and trailers for OUT North, go to yukonqueerfilmalliance.com.