As a longtime fan of lesbian films, more and more I find myself craving great stories about the beauty, sensuality and experience of the older lesbian. But are they easy to find? Despite the strides we’ve made in society, most movies are still geared to a younger heterosexual audience. You have to really look, but there are indeed some truly wonderful films that beautifully portray the older woman. I’ve chosen six films, now streaming on Amazon Prime, which I’ve enjoyed tremendously. Not all of them end happily (we’re already used to that, aren’t we?), but they are worthy of our attention.
Vita and Virginia (2018)
If you are a fan of the legendary love story between literary giants Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf, then this movie adaptation of Eileen Atkins’s acclaimed play won’t disappoint. Set in the early 1920s, the flirtatious Vita (Gemma Arterton) and reserved Virginia (Elizabeth Debicki) meet at a party and the attraction is instantaneous. Both women are committed to their long-term marriages, but their passions can’t be controlled. Arterton and Debicki positively embody Vita and Virginia and Chanya Button’s direction is a feast for those who appreciate gorgeous period details.
The brilliant Piper Laurie stars in this touching film, that’s based on a true story. Laurie plays Rose, an 80ish widow living quietly at a lakeside home where she’s going to spend the weekend with her quarreling daughter (Brooke Adams) and granddaughter (Emily Baldoni). When her granddaughter presents her with some old photos she had developed, Rose is shocked by the image of a person she once loved. We then go back in time, through flashbacks, to the early 60s where we witness a passionate love affair that occurred between young, married Rose (Shannon Collis) and her married neighbor, Louise (Emily Goss). Will the older Rose be able to come out to her family and to herself? These two great story lines hold your attention and the vintage sets and costumes will remind you of Carol and Desert Hearts.
In this poignant and ultimately life-affirming true story, Julianne Moore and Ellen Page star as a couple who fight for justice when one becomes terminally ill. Moore plays detective Laurel Hester, a 25 year veteran of the New Jersey police force. Shy and reserved, Hester meets and falls in love with Stacie (Page), a younger car mechanic. The two move in together and register as domestic partners. But their happiness is short lived when Laurel is diagnosed with end-stage lung cancer. All she wants is to pass on her pension to Stacie, but the county freeholders refuse her request. Her fight eventually became national news. Moore and Page are outstanding and believable and Steve Carell almost steals the film as a boisterous gay rights activist.
Tru Love (2013)
This warm, funny and quirky drama about a May-December romance between two vastly different women may feel airy and light at first, but it’s worth hanging on to the very end. Tru (Shauna MacDonald) is a warm-hearted, passionate woman with some serious commitment issues. But when she meets her friend Suzanne’s recently widowed mother, the vivacious and regal Alice (Kate Trotter), the two are instantly smitten. And Alice’s daughter is not pleased. What’s magical and refreshing bout the film is that the age difference is never an issue and their attraction feels real and natural. MacDonald and Trotter truly make a sexy and tender couple.
Between Two Women (2000)
There is not one love scene, no kissing of any kind and barely any hand holding. But this beautiful love story, set in a 1950s working class British town, is achingly romantic. Ellen Hardy (the glorious Barbara Marten) has been stuck in a long, loveless marriage to her indifferent husband, Geoff. Her only solace from this claustrophobic existence is her young son, Vic. Through Vic, Ellen makes a connection with his inspiring teacher, Kathy Thompson (Andrina Carroll). The women spend brief, precious moments together just talking or walking the boy to school. When they discover they have fallen in love, their fear of judgment becomes an intense struggle. How they cope with coming out and embracing meaningful love as older women in a repressive era is both lovely and inspiring.
Late Bloomers (1996)
The 1990s was a great decade for lesbian filmmaking. Young directors broke free from the doom and gloom genre of lesbian storytelling and produced some truly positive films. One shining example was this delightful comedy-drama about the unexpected romance between two small-town older women. Long-time married secretary Carly Lumpkin (Dee Hennigan), works at the local high school where her husband, Rom, teaches math. His best friend is Dinah Groshardt (Connie Nelson), the girls’ basketball coach. After a terrible misunderstanding, Carly and Dinah grow close and are surprised when they fall in love, much to the disdain of the bigoted townspeople. Dinah and Carly quietly fight back by planning a wedding—and inviting everyone. Despite the film’s low budget flaws, you will cheer for these two lovably awkward women and their lovely relationship.
Thankfully, this list is by no means definitive. As Hollywood and independent filmmakers discover that there is a huge audience for films about older women, it’s now up to us to support them.