BFI LFF 2020

Cicada review – one for the LGBTQ+ film bargain bin

Matt Fifer and Kieran Mulcare's trope-heavy and stereotypical queer romance tells an uninspired story about unlikeable characters

Matt Fifer and Kieran Mulcare’s vacuous debut Cicada is just another gay two-hander for the Grindr age – a dime a dozen in the post-marriage equality West, this one destined for the Netflix “LGBTQ+ Films” bargain bin. There’s nothing new here, just a patchwork of Celluloid Closet-era tropes and self-immolating stereotypes scraped together in vain search of something resembling profundity, rendered through such lines as “I’m sorry you felt like the other.” Yikes.

It’s 2013 in New York City. A bisexual or gay man with one foot ever in the closet, Ben (Fifer, a better performer than he is a director) spends most of his nights on unfulfilling dates doomed to end in unfulfilling sex. His many partners include a lecherous trans work colleague who Ben views with something between bemusement and disdain. She’s written as flimsily as cardboard, nothing more than a last resort for Horny McHornson to get his perennially packed rocks off.

Eventually he meets the handsome Sam (Sheldon D. Brown, Cicada’s lone saving grace, if there is one) and, rescued from the pits of queer promiscuity into the promised land of a monogamous relationship, his quality of life improves tenfold. But domesticity, the lad learns, comes not without friction. Nor is childhood trauma erased by a joyful present: Ben continues to be affected by a childhood molestation, which his therapist bafflingly implies to be the route of his queerness, whilst Sam springs like a terrified cat at fireworks and car back-fires, the more plausible (and, as such, sympathetic) result of growing up in a violent, gun-toting neighbourhood.

Even without the script’s derivations and hokey banality, both characters are fundamentally unlikable, presented as so corrupted by thinly-defined trauma as to be unsavable – but what is the point of such a pessimistic, vacant conclusion? Unlike its more successful contemporaries – Lucio Castro’s fine End of the Century springs to mind, as does Andrew Haigh’s phenomenal Weekend – Cicada has absolutely nothing new to say about the modern queer condition.

Cicada was screened as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2020.

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