NewFest 2020 | Report 3

It’s 1995 in small-town Ireland and Amber (Lola Petticrew) and Eddie (Fionn O’Shea) are high school students certain neither of their current place in the world nor of their future path. So far, so good—school stories have provided the material for many a popular film, and lately Ireland’s been getting their share of the business with films like Sing Street(2016) and television series like Normal People (2020). There’s a twist in David Freyne’s Dating Amber, however—Amber is a lesbian and Eddie is gay, and they’re stuck in an environment where gay is definitely not OK.

Amber and Eddie both know they’re not like their classmates, all of whom seem obsessed with the opposite sex, or their conventional parents, but they’ve taken different approaches to dealing with this dilemma. Amber is self-aware and openly rebellious, sporting red and green streaks in her hair and planning to chuck it all and escape to London—in fact, she’s earning money for that purpose by renting out a trailer in her mother’s trailer park to her horny schoolmates. Meanwhile Eddie is trying to convince himself that he’s straight, and plans to follow his father’s path into the army—although he can’t manage a single pullup and displays no great talent for wilderness survival techniques, either.

Although Amber and Eddie don’t have a lot in common other than their non-standard sexual preferences, they decide to form a mutually beneficial protective alliance by pretending to be each other’s steadies (the film’s original title was Beards), which their classmates accept without question (one secret of success—tell people a story they’re already familiar with).  Dating Amber is a sweet little film, but also a conventional one, adding a GLBTQ element to a well-known formula. Both young leads are good and overall it’s pleasant enough, despite Eddie’s persistent dickishness and an inconsistent tone that can be wearing—a video of a nun teaching sex education, for instance, is so broad as to be ridiculous (“Jesus will now make the vagina slippery to accept the man’s love”), while most of the film offers gentler satire of realistic attitudes and circumstances.

I can only offer a capsule review of Filippo Meneghetti’s debut feature film Two of Us, but it’s another film well worth your time and attention (and the international festival circuit agrees with me). Nina (Barbara Sukowa) and the widowed Mado (Martine Chevalier) are longtime lovers who have remained firmly in the closet for decades—a ruse facilitated by their being next-door neighbors in an apartment building. They’re planning a move from France to Rome, which will require explaining to relatives that they’re more than just good friends. Then several things happen in quick succession which threaten their cosy togetherness, and issues previously avoided must be dealt with. | Sarah Boslaugh

NewFest 2020 runs from Oct. 16 to Oct. 27, and most films in the festival are available for remote screening. Both single tickets ($12, $10 for members) and all-access festival passes ($95) are available. Further information, including details on the films and other events, is available from the festival web site.

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