Geraldine Chaplin shines in “Sand Dollars,” a complicated May/December romance

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There are lesbian relationships of all kinds. Obviously not all are the stuff of romance novels. Love and lust are not always present. Or if they are, it’s not always mutual. The movie Sand Dollars makes that uncomfortably clear.

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Noelí (newcomer Yanet Mojica) is a young Dominican woman trying to rise out of poverty. To achieve this, she courts elderly tourists. For three years, she’s maintained a relationship with a French woman named Anne (played by Geraldine Chaplin). Anne is naively smitten while Noelí is unapologetically manipulative.

Indeed, Noelí is not a likeable character. It’s not just that she’s cold–it’s that she doesn’t even do a good job hiding it. And Anne, despite her suspicions, let’s her get away with it.

Not to beat a dead horse, but Noelí is shameless. I gave up trying to keep count of how many times she asked Anne for money. If it’s not money, she’s accepting fancy gifts or pawning them. Anne never looks like she buys her lies completely, but she rolls with them anyway.

In many ways, Anne is living the life of a sad old woman. Her son doesn’t want much to do with her, and instead of surrounding herself with friends and family, she lives alone in a hotel in a foreign country. She’s brilliant, yet for three years she’s let a woman (whose age she doesn’t even know) play her.

STILL_02

Fortunately Sand Dollars also exposes us to a different side of Anne. When friends come to visit, it’s the first time we see her truly happy and confident. It gets her thinking–maybe it’s time to go back to France.

Now to be fair, Anne and Noelí’s relationship isn’t cold all around. As the film progresses, we do see them move into a new stage in their relationship. Noelí does begin to open up more and seems genuinely interested in getting to know Anne.

But is it too little, too late? Will Anne take Noelí to France with her? And does Noelí even want to go?

Sand Dollars feature a great performance from Chaplin, the only standout in this film. Unfortunately the movie disappoints in other areas, most notably the flat and poorly set up character of Noelí. Still, points for showing us a lesbian relationship we don’t usually see. We could always use more of that.

The movie’s website, the movie’s website.com, does not currently list any screening dates. Check your local LGBT film festival to see if it’ll be playing near you soon.

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