Film Review: Below Her MouthTwo women meet by chance and fall for each other in this steamy soft porn that seems to have no use for character development or basic plotting.
Independent and foreign cinema has been good to stories of lesbian romance and liberation as of late, with the likes of the exquisite Carol, the cunningly dark and clever The Handmaiden and the steamy character study Blue Is the Warmest Color. Unfortunately, April Mullen’s Below Her Mouth, a Toronto-set story of passion and lust, carries none of the qualities of the aforementioned fare. The film is admirably made by a mostly female crew, with many of the key roles held by women. In fact, Below Her Mouth is among to first films to receive a number of “F” ratings from IMDb, highlighting its female-driven creative team and subject matter. It is then rather dispiriting that Mullen’s film fails on many fronts in its quest to honor the female experience. To take it a step further, one often wonders whether Below Her Mouth is soft (and at times, not so soft) porn that solely caters to the male gaze.
The film follows Jasmine (Natalie Krill), a successful fashion editor engaged to a dreamboat man named Rile (Sebastian Pigott), whom she lives with. One night, when clubbing with her gay best friend, Jasmine meets with a Kristen Stewart lookalike named Dallas (Erika Linder), a rugged roofer recovering from a recently failed relationship. Despite Jasmine’s half-hearted rejection, Dallas persistently pursues her and finally convinces her to launch into an affair, which quickly takes a steamy turn.
I wish I could tell you in detail what the two women find in each other beyond being clearly attracted to each other’s good physique and charisma. Below Her Mouth quickly ditches (or rather, never quite engages with) the principles of basic character building. We don’t ever get to see the supposed successful fashion editor Jasmine fashion-edit anything. As for Dallas’ craft, her roofing is only used in a sexually suggestive manner to get Jasmine off. Sure, they do exchange some backstory with each other, but bad dialogue and wooden delivery only make these exchanges seem like filler to get to the, um, main action eventually. Indeed, there are several extended, extremely detailed sex scenes here, with plenty of both female and male full-frontal nudity. Surely, there is nothing wrong with dialing up the heat onscreen with realistic portrayals of intercourse. But when these are not supported by a plot, it’s hard to make a cinematic case beyond deeming them pornographic. We don’t ever buy the romance between Dallas and Jasmine (because we’re never given a reason to). Consequently, the sex scenes feel detached from any kind of feeling beyond mere under-baked attraction.
The real punch in the gut, however, is how Below Her Mouth betrays the female experience by over-sexualizing a woman’s body. The camera often feels rather exploitative, so much that you forget it’s a woman behind the camera and recall certain shortcomings of Blue Is the Warmest Color in that regard. Not to mention, everyone in the film is unrealistically made up, perfect and impossibly supermodel-like. I’m not quite sure who the audience is for this exercise that barely passes for a film (well, I have an idea.) But to anyone searching for a rich study of the female experience, you will need to keep looking elsewhere. This one surely scores an F, and not just on the IMDb scale.
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