When it comes to relationships, everyone has a different perception of what love is and what it looks like. This perception stems from not only our own experiences but from what we’ve seen of others; our parents, our friends, movies, etc. But then we add trauma and baggage into the mix and that’s what changes everything. It can take things out of our control and end up sabotaging those relationships and this idea of love that we had to begin with switches up with every relationship that we enter. This is what the film Cicada examines and believe me when I say, it is quite the rollercoaster.
Co-written, co-directed and starring Matthew Fifer (creator of Jay and Pluto, which made IndieWire’s “Top 10” list for best web series of the year) as Ben, a recently out bisexual man who has left a long term relationship with a woman and uses humour to deflect sadness. After many one night stands with many different men and a few women, he meets Sam, portrayed by Sheldon D. Brown in his debut film; a successful black gay man who is still in the closet. With Ben being so used to hook-ups and then moving on, he’s surprised when Sam shows no interest in sex at first and just wants to talk. The two begin seeing each other and forming what seems to be the first serious connection with another person in a very long time. But not all is as smooth as they’d like it to be when each of their past traumas continue to not only haunt them, but also their relationship. I won’t go into detail about what each of the men are trying to deal with but themes of sexual abuse and hate crimes are very prominent.
The beauty of this film not only comes from the storytelling, but who’s telling the story. The narrative of Ben and Sam is actually based on the very own experiences of the actors themselves. Written by Matthew Fifer (Ben), and Sheldon D. Brown (Sam) adding additional story, this is an honest and raw film that depicts sexual abuse in a realistic way. It shows the mental repercussions of holding in that information and how freeing it is to come clean and share your story. Along with that, we’re given Sam’s side of what it’s like to be a black man in an interracial relationship with a white man, and how it can be much more difficult to come out.
There’s so much to gain from this film and it’s so refreshing to see a gay love story that isn’t riddled with tragedy. Although it’s important to showcase some of the heartbreaking treatment and realities of being queer, a person of color or both; not every one of the stories has to end on a depressing note. Even though we have to witness heartbreaking scenarios in the mix with Cicada, it’s nice to leave a romance film like this and think about the beauty you just witnessed.
On a technical note, this film is gorgeous to look at and the script is so tight and flows so well it’s ridiculous. There wasn’t a line or a scene that felt forced or out of place; no unnecessary character that should have never entered this story. And the performances, they are so incredible that you feel like you know these two; the chemistry is completely on point. The closest film I would relate this to is Andrew Haigh’s Weekend. Since watching Weekend I’ve been waiting to leave a film feeling the same way I did leaving that one. They’re both such personal, realistic and completely relatable romances that are loved for all the right reasons. Although these types of films for the community are rare it’s nice to know that there are more filmmakers capturing and displaying these stories for us.
To end this review I honestly have to thank Matthew Fifer and Sheldon D. Brown for sharing their stories and being brave enough to put them on the screen; along with Kieran Mulcare (Jessica Jones) for co-directing with Fifer. The romance genre has never been a favourite of mine but this one was nothing other than beautiful. I see how this film may be triggering to some who have gone through similar experiences; but it may also be therapeutic to see such an honest portrayal of recovery. At the end of the day, it’s a film that is completely engrossing and has an ending that I’ll remember for a very long time.