Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping’s ‘Femme’, which debuted at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival before making its way to Fantasia, fits the ‘revenge thriller’ glove well. Jules (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), a charismatic and popular drag artist in present-day London, is left physically and emotionally traumatized by a vicious hate crime led by Preston (George MacKay). When Jules encounters Preston in a gay bath-house some months later, the revelation that his attacker is closeted offers the perfect opportunity to enact revenge.
Where ‘Femme’ stands out from the crowd is its boldly intentional refusal to simply deliver straight-forward moral catharsis. Jules’ increasingly intimate relationship with Preston steers the two into a social labyrinth of dangerous, emotionally fraught complications that blur the nature of Jules’ desires.
Stewart-Jarrett and MacKay are phenomenal in their cat-and-mouse roles, evoking ever-shifting levels of empathy and anxiety as their diametrically opposed worlds clash. ‘Femme’ is a nuanced take on concepts of justice, attraction and identity, riding the razor’s edge right until the breath-stealing final act.