Cholodenko’s first film, High Art, debuted in 1998, playing at Cannes and Sundance, and winning awards for its screenplay and star Ally Sheedy‘s performance as lesbian photographer Lucy Berliner. While the storyline followed Lucy and her budding romance with her neighbor, Syd, the sexuality aspect was not the focus of the film. Instead, it was about the darkness Lucy felt until she met Syd, and how Syd’s life was moved and inspired by Lucy, despite her bad habits.
"I think that was a very kind of rarefied world, a pretty dark film," Cholodenko said. "I think even if I had made it on a broader canvas with bigger resources and commitment to advertising and stuff, I think inherently the way that story went it would have appealed to a smaller audience." Which is what makes it different from Kids, which is, at its heart, a film about family dynamics and outside forces that can threaten to change them. High Art and The Kids Are All Right, as well as her 2000 film Laurel Canyon, are all so different in their central themes, and yet they all feature a subtle aspect of sexual exploration. And that might also be why Cholodenko has managed to escape the lesbian filmmaker ghetto.
"Obviously it’s really hard to make a film," Cholodenko said. "I think with this film I was really clear with Stuart [Bloomberg] who I wrote it with, I didn’t want to make an agenda film. I didn’t want it to be about gay rights issues or Prop. 8 or those sorts of things. I feel like I wanted just to start from the place of ‘this is normal and this is what it is,’ and get deeper and delve into a story that feels fresher and richer and more universal."
"Maybe it’s the staying into the subject of being marginal or whatever that can be irritating sometimes," she continued. "How many lesbians are making films, if you think about it really? Not many."
Cholodenko said she’d enjoyed films like the 1995 Antonia’s Line from lesbian filmmaker Marleen Gorris and I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing from Patricia Rozema.
"I remember when I was in my twenties, really early twenties," she said of the latter. "It was really inspiring to me. So those are two lesbian filmmakers that both happen to be Canadian."