“Honeyglue” is a gender-defying love story

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It’s often said that films are a mirror of society and not the other way round, meaning that if you’re waiting for a film to come along and change society, good luck. That’s why it doesn’t really surprise me that only now are we seeing gender non-conforming leads in narrative film. What’s more, they’re romantic leads and they’re carving out a space in niche genres, including lesbian cinema. I suspect we’ll see a rise in such offerings in the years to come. This, of course, won’t sit well with every queer woman, but for those willing to give this new genre of sorts a chance, I contend that the new film Honeyglue is a good starting point.

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Honeyglue is the love story of two hopeless romantics: terminally ill Morgan (Adriana Mather) and her gender non-conforming lover, Jordan (Zach Villa). The film takes us through the three months they had together and leaves no question of just how strong their love really was despite their short time together.

The movie opens with two bald heads. It’s Morgan and Jordan laying out their “digital love story.” They’re clearly in love, but Morgan is just as obviously sick. In classic storybook format, they decide to start their tale from the beginning.

The two young lovers met at a club one fateful night: their mutual birthday. Spotting a feminine-looking Jordan, Morgan untactfully asked what they are (“A girl?”) and what they’re into (“Gay?”). In response, Jordan kissed a guy right in front of her, only to proceed to confuse her further by pulling her into a kiss. When Morgan later tried to make a quick exit, she promised, “I’ll always remember this night, kissing that very attractive boy-girl.” To which Jordan corrected her: “It’s girl-boy.”

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Issues of identity aside, the two live very different lives. Morgan has always enjoyed a middle-class lifestyle with her parents and brother, but now has to give up on her dream of becoming a detective (like her dad) because she knows she doesn’t have the time to see it through. Jordan might have the luxury of time, but unemployment, a bad mother who’s not around and poor living conditions aren’t great prospects either.

So how do these two get together against the odds? Jordan, being a professional pickpocket, actually nabbed Morgan’s wallet and therefore has more than enough info to get to the girl. So despite feeling somewhat inferior, Jordan does show up on Morgan’s doorstep. Of course it’s her dad, Dennis (Christopher Heyerdahl), and brother, Bailey (Booboo Stewart), who come out instead. After some expected grilling, Jordan’s allowed to speak with Morgan, who immediately makes it known she didn’t “lose” her wallet. False starts aside, she invites Jordan up to her room where they bond over The Pink Panther of all things.

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This all inevitably leads to a family dinner scene that sees Dennis and Bailey making jokes about gender. Morgan’s mom, Janet (Jessica Tuck of True Blood), mostly just looks on confused. It’s the first scene where pronouns are really front and center, and it makes clear that Jordan responds to “he”as he does in other scenes and with other characters. It would appear it’s a pronoun he accepts.

Following this, Jordan brings Morgan over to where he lives. He’s squatting with a bunch of other people in similar circumstances, including Misty (Fernanda Romero of that cute 40 Love short), who he used to have a fling with. Let’s just say she’s not happy about his present lack of interest, or the fact that he owes her money he borrowed for art school.

That’s another interesting element in the film. Jordan is an artist and the film features delightful animated scenes from a children’s book he’s writing and illustrating about the love between a dragonfly and a bee. The film also uses home video footage throughout to mark the past and present, at times more effectively than others.

Back to the story, as Morgan and Jordan get more serious, Morgan knows she has to tell him the truth about her health. Finally, she tells him she has a malignant brain tumor and a prognosis of only three months to live. Oh, and she’ll also be moving to Houston, where doctors say they can better manage her pain. She’s going for her parents’ sake and won’t listen to Jordan’s pleas for her to stay.

But despite Morgan having left and Misty’s mockery of their relationship, Jordan knows they’re in love. So much so that when the treatment doesn’t work and Morgan comes back home, Jordan’s there without even being asked. It’s by no means smooth sailing from there, but Morgan does come to accept that Jordan wants to be with her, bald head and all. In fact, one of the most moving scenes in the film is watching Morgan shave off Jordan’s hair per his request. It’s beautiful.

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Now it’s about making the most of what time Morgan has left. What has she always wanted most? To get married. Without hesitation or the initial blessing of Morgan’s family, Jordan proposes. They both get married in dresses in the family’s home by Morgan’s lesbian aunt, Lisa (Kristin Minter), who tries to pronounce them as “man and wife,” to which Jordan responds, “No labels.” Just as cute is Morgan replying “I will” when Lisa says, “You may now kiss the bride.”

The story doesn’t end there. After all, there’s a honeymoon to get to and some items to scratch off Morgan’s bucketlist. There’s also the matter of her meeting her mother-in-law, who has quite the complicated history with Jordan. And, of course, there’s just being in love and making the most of that while they can.

As to be expected, the film’s ending is bittersweet, but with an emphasis, in my opinion, on the sweet. It’s ultimately quite a beautiful film that’s sure to raise some conversation. There will almost certainly be others that’ll do the same.

Honeyglue is playing in Los Angeles starting June 10. Visit the movie’s website to find out where else it’s coming to.

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