The bittersweet teen romance Love & Suicide does not, at first, seem like it's going to be a quality film: It's a direct-to-DVD release, and it's distributed by the same company that proudly brings you My Big Phat Hip Hop Family. Worst of all, there's that cheesy cover, which practically screams, “Get yer soft-core porn right here, buddy boy!”
And yet, this is a well-made movie: The main characters are likable, the plot is mostly solid, the eroticism isn't sleazy, the soundtrack (featuring Ani DiFranco) is fantastic, and the two main actresses are nothing short of excellent. But be warned: Love & Suicide is also extraordinarily bleak.
Reportedly inspired by a true story, the drama focuses on two attractive teens, Emily (Sarah Reardon) and Kaye (Stella Johnson). Kaye has recently moved to New Orleans with her God-fearing mother and quirky younger brother, and soon forms a friendship with Emily.
Much to the dismay of their mothers, the two girls become very close. Emily and Kaye, typical kids that they are, decide they are going to ignore their moms' wishes and stay friends anyway.
They soon realize, though, that they want to be more than just friends. And that's when the problems start — because Kaye can't deal with the homophobia she faces. So she begins dating a guy.
If the storyline sounds familiar, it's because it's virtually identical to the one used in Lost and Delirious. It's all a bit, well, 1996.
The film also seems a bit dated in its portrayal of Christianity. Kaye's mom (Judy Henderson) has extremely homophobic ideas about lesbianism, but she is not a fundamentalist Christian, which unfortunately makes it seem as if her notions are common among mainstream Christians. While that may once have been the case, it seems a little old-fashioned these days.
But despite some stumbles along the way, including a throwaway boyfriend for Emily and some truly questionable acting skills (Emily's mother is particularly poorly cast), there is still much to like about Love & Suicide.
Sarah Reardon, who plays Emily, looks like a cross between Linda Cardellini and Brittany Murphy and is a major reason to watch the film. Love & Suicide is Reardon's first and, so far, only film, but she is blessed with charisma to spare.
Reardon's acting chops come to the fore in the film's love scene, which is another reason to see Love & Suicide. The strong emotions these girls feel for each other make the scene especially sexy, an impressive feat given that neither of the actresses were nude during the scene.
Finally, Love & Suicide does have an excellent plot. Though it has its flaws, it's absolutely riveting. This is one film that will keep you spellbound until the very end — if you can stand to watch it that long.
Get Love & Suicide at amazon.com