Patricia Rozema‘s 1995 film When Night is Falling followed the story of Camille, a “straight” woman who is trying to find happiness in the things that are going right for her. But when her dog dies and she meets an alluring circus performer at the laundromat, things begin to shift, and she can’t tell if it’s for better or for worse.
Whatever came of the actors and director behind the ’90s circus-lesbian flick? We’ll tell you!
Pascale Bussières as Camille, a professor at a religious university who falls for another woman
The redheaded French Canadian beauty has starred in several films in her home country, including another gay-themed film, Set Me Free (1999) and one called Replay, in which she was obsessed with her best friend. In more recent years, she’s appeared on French TV shows Belle-Baie and Mirador, while continuing to make films. (She’s starred in two that came out this year already.)
Rachael Crawford as Petra, a traveling circus performer who romances Camille
Rachael has worked largely in Canadian TV after When Night is Falling, including a regular role as Dr. Kate Langford on Show Me Yours. She also appeared on two episodes of Being Erica and is now starring in the series Alphas as Jeannie Harken.
Tracy Wright as Tori, the circus owner who is preoccupied with keeping her business afloat
I’m sad to say that Tracy passed away last year from pancreatic cancer. She had been an indie film actress, known for her memorable role in Miranda July‘s Me, You and Everyone We Know and a part in the Molly Shannon film Superstar. Her last film, Trigger, will be released by Wolfe Video in November, and in it Tracy played a lesbian musician who gets back together with an ex-band member for a reunion tour. The role won her a posthumous Best Actress award at the 2011 ACTRAs.
Patricia Rozema, writer and director
This film is the second lesbian-themed one from the out director. Her first was I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, which came out in 1987. After When Night is Falling, she wrote for the TV adaptation of The Hunger, directed the well-received movie version of Mansfield Park and, in 2008, worked on Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. Her most recent work has been in TV, though, as she’s directed episodes of Tell Me You Love Me and In Treatment and won an Emmy for her writing work on the HBO TV movie Grey Gardens.
When Night is Falling is not explicit by today’s standards, but it received an NC-17 rating for the lesbian sexuality. It was released without rating, however, which was probably even more confusing to distributors. While it received mixed reviews, the film was boundary pushing for the time, as was Rozema’s previous lesbian-themed film, I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing. Since she has moved on to do more mainstream projects and less of her own writing, it seems that she’s no longer interested in participating in the dialogue she once was part of creating — at least not in the last decade.
The mid-’90s was a pivotal time in lesbian cinema and the religious angle in the film wasn’t touched upon in any other films in the genre until But I’m a Cheerleader, and even that film wasn’t as church-centered as it was about societal norms. Camille’s struggle with her sexuality was just as much about her struggle with finding herself within her religion and her workplace, as they all intersected. She found that if she were being true to herself, she’d be betraying another element of her life, and it was (and is) a very real conflict that any member of the LGBT community can empathize with.
Though Camille had to face her feelings and ultimate sexual awakening, When Night is Falling wasn’t so much a coming out story as it was a portrait of discovering authenticity in how you live your life and what you present to other people. As a professor, Camille wanted her students to be taught the truth, not a warped version of what should be true, based on some interpretations of the Bible. To do so, she had to live her life the same way, otherwise she would be a hypocrite. She found that being a hypocrite was much worse than being a lesbian.
And Petra, on the other hand, was learning to commit to something other than the circus. Camille gave her all the right reasons.
Have you seen When Night is Falling?