Sammy and Leigh aren’t so lucky. Sammy’s NBA career doesn’t go as planned, and Leigh remains obsessed with Paula (Jasmine Burke), her high school sweetheart-turned heartbreak. Both begin to repeat the same patterns that got them into trouble in the first place.
As the picture’s primary lesbian character, Leigh is sympathetic and flawed (much like everyone else). At the beginning of the film, she’s a butch high school girl utterly in love with Paula, who is sexy and slinky — all smiles and flirtatious looks to Leigh, but keeping a boyfriend behind Leigh’s back.
Hammitte brings a great deal to the role. We genuinely feel for Leigh as her mother and father scold her for her “behavior.” We’re happy for her as she and Paula kiss innocently in the bedroom, and devastated when Paula shies away from her in public.
It’s the sort of heartbreak that most queer women have experienced before — presented with brutal honesty. How she deals with this event comes to define her as an adult.
Perhaps the film’s greatest triumph is in its unwavering authenticity.
The movie shies away from very little, connecting all of the invisible dots that lie in between victims and abusers, shining light on the reasons why events have transpired the way they have. Violent scenes are staged and shot straight up, with a dynamic camera that refuses to pan away from the ugliness. Depictions of sexual violence are a bit more implicit — though no less disturbing.
Certainly, the realism applies to the more mundane details as well. Everything in the film breathes authenticity — the straight-out-of ’86 dance music, the slang, even the cars and dingy houses feel just right. Part of this lies in the excellent cinematography and obvious attention to detail, and part on the music and prop selection.
It’s difficult to find fault with Mississippi Damned — it’s clearly a personal, important piece of work from a very talented filmmaker.
This is one of the better dramas to released in 2009 — gay or straight — and it’s absolutely worth catching during its run on the LGBT and independent film festival circuits this summer.
Visit the film’s official website at mississippidamned.com