The film More Beautiful for Having Been Broken premiers at Frameline on June 30th. It’s an emotional story about three women whose uniquely broken lives intertwine in a small, lakeside town. A single mother of a medically fragile son, an FBI agent on leave after suffering loss on the job, and a woman struggling with maintaining her sobriety experience hurt and healing as they learn to appreciate the beauty in each day. I was excited to preview this film for three reasons.
Lesbians. Can’t get enough of ‘em. This cheesy gay just wants romance films she can relate to.
It stars Kayla Radomski, and as a dancer, I could never forget her iconic performance to Gravity by Sara Bareilles on So You Think You Can Dance with partner Kupono Aweau. When I saw her name in the credits I paused a moment to fangirl.
As someone whose day job is serving individuals with disabilities, I was excited to see a film that addresses the challenges and triumphs of a medically fragile character that actually stars someone with a diagnosis. The mantra “nothing about us without us” rang through my mind and it made my little social worker heart happy.
Watch the trailer:
So let’s dive in. Australian actress Zoe Ventoura plays Mackenzie Aaron, a haunted FBI agent running from trauma and pain. She chooses to run to remote and idyllic Lake Maryville in northern California, where she meets Freddy (played by Cale Ferrin) a young boy with disabilities with extraordinary emotional intelligence and a knack for chess, his protective and devoted mother Sam (Kayla Radomski), a dance teacher who is healing from a history of abandonment and loss, and Vivienne (Harley Jane Kozac) a politician who shares a mysterious history with Mackenzie.
The movie dives unflinchingly into the challenges of parenting a special needs child, from the day-to-day medical care to the impending fear of loss that teaches Sam to value each day with her son. We witness Freddy experiencing bullying from peers, having a seizure, and the myriad of medical treatments and drugs he takes on a regular basis to manage his diagnoses.
Freddy is impossible not to love and wins over Mackenzie with a little patience, despite her carefully constructed emotional walls. Freddy clearly has a plan and not-so-subtly nudges Sam and Mackenzie into a relationship with one another. The romance takes well over half the film to develop and I found myself getting a little restless waiting for one of them to make a move.
Finally, they do, and a beautiful relationship built around mutual affection for one another and shared responsibility for Freddy emerges. Complications arise when we learn of Vivienne’s complicated role in the story and all three women are forced to face their own demons.
No spoilers, but there is some serious dyke drama in this movie that took me for a wild ride. I would say it was soap opera drama if I didn’t know actual dykes to whom the exact same thing had happened. Without giving away too much, in my opinion, the ending has some problematic elements in regards to disability representation which surprised me considering the closeness the filmmaker has to the topic. Right up until the end, though, I felt the representation of both marginalized groups being represented by the film were done justice.
Some may find the film bordering chessy. It has all the drama and aesthetics of a classic Hallmark Christmas special. Replace the moral message of Christmas Magic with one of accepting difference (be that disability or sexuality), and replace the tired, straight romance with a classic lesbian love affair. But I’m not mad. I love cheese. I’m emotional and this film is timed to release mid-cancer season.(Hello, astrology lesbians!) As a little girl, I watched those Hallmark specials with my grandma, and I loved them, but I never saw myself in them.
More Beautiful for Having Been Broken doesn’t ask me to politicize my sexuality. It doesn’t ask me to relive my own experiences of homophobia and rejection as a lesbian. It offers me a little slice of what it’s like to live a life in which my very existence and innate sexuality aren’t up for debate. For once I got to enjoy a love story I could identify with that wasn’t designed to convince straight people that we’re people too.
Lack of representation contributes to compulsory heterosexuality and challenges in developing a defined sense of self for young lesbians. Now we have Carol and Gentleman Jack and openly gay actresses giving our gaybies something to look to and identify with.
But as lesbians our lives are so politicized in every arena that it seems like every ounce of representation is punctuated with a carefully crafted social and political statement. More Beautiful for Having Been Broken doesn’t ask me to politicize my sexuality. It doesn’t ask me to relive my own experiences of homophobia and rejection as a lesbian. It offers me a little slice of what it’s like to live a life in which my very existence and innate sexuality aren’t up for debate. For once I got to enjoy a love story I could identify with that wasn’t designed to convince straight people that we’re people too. For once oppression wasn’t front and center in the narrative on lesbian love.