Moving to Toronto from a small town at the age of nineteen was the first time I was entirely introduced to the queer scene. More specifically an open and proud community that I would have never really been exposed to three years ago; it’s not that it didn’t exist where I lived either, it just had to be sought out. I remember going to my first gay bar and seeing my first drag show, I was in complete awe. Such an important part of LGBTQIA2S+ history and its community is the drag scene, and the queens who started the revolution at a time where it could have easily resulted in death. So when I sat down to watch Philip J. Connell’s Jump, Darling I already had an instilled excitement knowing that a drag queen character was leading this film. It’s due time for these types of queer stories to be told as a sort of coming of age and I have to say, this one is an incredible installment.
In Connell’s feature directorial debut, we follow Russell a.k.a “Fishy Falters”, a young drag queen fairly new to the scene who heads home and out of the city to his grandmother after a mild crisis. Here were introduced to Maraget, a frail elderly woman who lives alone in her farmhouse. Russell and Margaret’s relationship is stable enough and you can see that they have a lot of love and tolerance for each other. Thomas Duplessie (The Mechanical Boy) and Cloris Leachman’s (The Last Picture Show) chemistry as Russell and Margaret throughout the film is extremely real and powerful, making you feel as though you have a whole grasp on their history together even though we’ve only known them for an hour.
The acting by the leads in this film is so incredible. You can tell there was a good amount of emotional connection to these characters and their stories. The way Russell’s character was brought to life on screen is something I won’t soon forget; and watching his transitions and the way he carries himself with confidence as Fishy Falters was a highlight as well. When it comes to Cloris Leachman as Margaret, it was such a powerhouse job. It’s such a quiet and soft role but the emotion in Leachman’s expressions and looks were so heartbreaking at times. Margaret is a woman who even though clearly needs help around her home and with herself, refuses to move into a care facility no matter how hard her daughter tries. It’s a sad but realistic story that goes to show how hard of a decision this is for everyone involved, and that sometimes there may not be a right answer.
Seeing a main character as a drag queen and that not being the sole purpose of the film was fantastic. It’s nice to see some light shed on the art of drag and the way many people dismiss it as a real career even though there are so many queens out there who have become very successful due to drag. There’s a powerful moment in the film where he’s asked whether drag is a “gay thing or gender thing” and his response being neither. It’s about saying screw you to the boxes and the shame. For someone to put their passion of drag on stage and show so much of themselves is brave. This film shows the work that goes into a single performance and the sheer joy it not only brings to the audience but the queens themselves.
The direction and writing in this film is so damn good. There were so many scenes where I was just in awe of what was happening and how beautiful the cinematography was, shout out to DP Viktor Cahoj. In particular, a moment in the film shows Russell performing alone in an empty bar to the song Indestructible by Robyn that’s so breathtaking. In general the score is fantastic and I found myself looking up many of the songs after the movie, which is a always a good sign.
This is a film that will stay with me for a while. It’s such a unique experience and flows at such a wonderful pace that by the end you’ll want more; although the ending ended up being perfect so as much as I’d have loved for it to keep going, I felt satisfied. If you’re looking for something to watch at Inside Out this year, considering all the screenings are online, I highly recommend Jump, Darling. It’s something I’ll be looking forward to seeing in theatres next year if that’s where it ends up.