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Monday, October 21, 2002

Between Two Women

Saw my first Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival movie Saturday night: Between Two Women, a British period piece, starring Barbara Marten as a ‘50s Huddersfield housewife with an artistic son and a boorish husband. Despite the Northern clichés—has there ever been a film set in Lancashire or Yorkshire that didn’t have sauce bottles on the table and at least one character working in’t mill—some inauthentic speechifying, and the most heavy-handed symbolism this side of a Tehran talkie, it was a lovely romantic movie.

I suspect that the American audience was a bit mystified by the various discussions of class, and I wonder how many really knew what dad was doing when he went into that little building at the end of the yard, but the fidgeting stopped when the romance kicked into high gear.

Forbidden love is a subject that’s hard to screw up, and Between Two Women did a great job of setting up the hurdles (husband, family, society, class) keeping Ellen from her son’s art teacher, Kathy. The scene where Kathy realized that Ellen wasn’t going to walk away from her family to be with her was heart-breaking, and their reconciliation was similarly heart-stopping.

Barbara Marten was amazing. She has the kind of face that’s made for melancholia and sadness, and few actors do moody stares better, but maybe because of that, her happy face is all the more affecting. It’s really too bad that she usually plays hard bitches or common-as-muck fools (e.g., her turn as Rose’s mother in Bob and Rose). Her transformation into a beautiful, happy woman in love was incredibly touching to witness.

I’d love to know more about the movie’s back story—it was obviously a labor of love, written, produced, and directed by Steven Woodcock. Why would a guy make a women’s movie set in such a different time. It’s hard not to imagine that it’s not autobiographical in some way (his mother? an aunt?), but who knows.