2011 Year in Review: Movies

Fish Child (El Nino Pez) stood alone as a devastating piece on class and sexual inequality haunting the neighborhoods of modern day Buenos Aires. Featuring a love story between a badly abused working class maid and the young woman whose family she works for, it begins with a murder and only gets darker from there. Thankfully, it also featured an ethereal lightness and a real chemistry between the leads. In ways, it even recalled The Brave One and other films with female “revenge fantasy” themes.

On the more personal side, Break My Fall was a slice of life drama that depicted two women (who happen to be bandmates) falling miserably out of love. Directed by a first time filmmaker, it happens to be a great example of this year’s emphasis on strong new voices and uncompromising vision.

On a similar note, Trigger featured two bandmates who used to be a couple, on their band’s one-night-only reunion. It’s another intensely personal movie, though the framing (and the characters) were older and wiser than Break My Fall’s young lovers, and the flow of the story very different. It’s also special for being actress Tracy Wright’s final film appearance – she died of cancer in 2010.

Tomboy, from filmmaker Celine Sciamma (Water Lillies), was not explicitly queer, but it dealt strongly with issues of gender identity and childhood. It enjoyed wider release than many of this year’s queer films, making waves in mainstream publications (including the A/V Club), for its honest tone and emotional subject matter.

While last year’s mainstream releases gave us a complex lesbian household (The Kids are All Right) and a “fluid” ballerina (Natalie Portman’s Oscar-winning turn in Black Swan), 2011’s queer women of the big (and wide release) screen included a bisexual character played by Zooey Deschanel (Our Idiot Brother), and possibly the most badass female character of the decade in Lisbeth Salander, in David Fincher’s adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. A bisexual hacker with a dark past and a take-no-prisoner’s attitude, she’s been in our hearts and minds here at AfterEllen.com ever since the books took the world by storm and Noomi Rapace first appeared in the original Swedish films, and Rooney Mara has just taken (perhaps stolen) the mantle and run with it.

Another high-profile release that turned heads was Glenn Close’s passion project Albert Nobbs, about a working class woman passing for a man in early 20th-century Ireland. It was complex and beautifully acted, netting serious Oscar buzz. Even better – it will enjoy national release (in select theaters) later this January.

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