By Carter Glace, Staff Writer
This review isn’t a pleasant one to write. Shot by an all-female crew, “Below Her Mouth” follows in the footsteps of many recent erotic lesbian romances. It’s arguable that we are actually in a golden age of romances between females this decade, with two extraordinary masterpieces “Blue is the Warmest Color” and “The Handmaiden.” But unlike those two male-directed projects, “Below Her Mouth” had the potential to be a nuanced and fresh look on lesbian romance from a female perspective — as opposed to the more voyeuristic and boys-club feeling found by others.
Unfortunately, “Below” is not even in the ballpark of those other films.
Jasmine (Natalie Krill) is an engaged career woman who meets and ultimately falls for tomboy Dallas (Erika Linder) while her husband is out of town. Their romance quickly escalates as both begin to reevaluate everything about their life and Jasmine questions whether or not she wants to go through with her marriage.
What ultimately sinks the film is its continued flickering between bland and bewildering. The story hits familiar beats — albeit at a more frantic pace than usual. There’s very little here that hasn’t been seen before in other films, and it doesn’t add enough spin onto any existing idea to make it feel exciting. The result feels like strolling through a familiar garden until an ending so abrupt and unclear that the movie feels unfinished.
The characters go through story arcs, but the insistence on splitting time relatively equally between them means neither gets enough of a defined personality beyond their trope. Jasmine is a cipher who has shallow twists and turns grafted onto her as time passes. Dallas fares a little better when the couple breaks up, as she gets an engaging montage to show her malaise. Other than that, it’s baffling how every single actress and actor delivers their dialogue in this cold distant affect. The only character of note is Jasmine’s boyfriend, who comes off as a sociopath as the film reaches its end.
The only moments of brevity are the brief flashes of style that come to few to save the film. It’s also worth noting how explicit the film gets — possibly one of the most graphic romance films in a while. These films find a frustrating middle ground. On one hand, they could be argued just as exploitative and graphic as similarly-themed male-directed films. And yet, they are the few moments of the film where there is a genuine sense of intimacy and warmth, often forsaking music and fancy lighting in favor of just focusing on the actresses’ faces. Moments like that could have potentially saved the film, but remain a glimpse of lost potential.
Again, it would have been a happy ending to see this film turn out to be great. But instead, it feels a pale derivative of films that have captured this genre infinitely better.
Email Carter Glace at firstname.lastname@example.org.