IMDb recently adopted an exciting new rating for films on the site: F-Rated. For a film to be qualified as F-Rated, it must be either directed by a women, written by a women, or "feature significant women on screen in their own right." Below Her Mouth certainly qualifies: on top of being written and directed by women and starring two women as the central characters, the entire crew is made up of women. For that reason, this Canadian production has been making some waves.
Below Her Mouth tells the story of Jasmine (Natalie Krill), a successful fashion magazine editor who is engaged to be wed to a man who leaves after the first scene to go on a business trip. In the meantime, we're introduced to Dallas (Erika Linder), a woman who owns her own roofing company and has just broken up with her girlfriend. These two see each other briefly as Dallas's roofing crew is working on the house next door to Jasmine, and then run into each other at a lesbian club that Jasmine's friend brings her to. Dallas's flirtations pique Jasmine's curiosity, and they soon start up a torrid affair that threatens to destroy Jasmine's impending marriage.
While the story is not particularly original, it at least contains some characters that have more to them than just their sexuality. It is made very clear that they both have strong independent careers, and Dallas in particular is fleshed out pretty nicely as the strong woman with several complex relationships outside of the one that the movie focuses on. Her explanation of "coming out" as something that you don't just do once, you do every day, is a fascinating one that lends her character a sense of something more.
Although many reviewers have compared it to softcore porn, I actually felt that the sexuality and sex scenes in the film work better than the rest of it. It takes a casual look at sex that strips it of eroticism and voyeurism as the characters don't treat it as something taboo. These scenes are for the most part realistic, grounded, and build naturally–this is where the chemistry of the movie works quite well. The movie is also shot quite well with a nice sense of shadow and neon, and in that sense might draw comparisons to Black Mirror's "San Junipero".
However, those are just about the only redeeming things about the film itself. Krill is dead-eyed in a role that requires intense passion and emotion, and it's hard to care about her since she is wholly unbelievable as Jasmine. Linder is worlds better, but the film relies completely on the chemistry between the two that ends at the bedroom. All of the body language rapport that is built up in the sex scenes is squandered in the exceedingly dull scenes of the two getting to know each other, and the relationship is forced, too fast, and eye-rollingly unconvincing. Outside of a sense of going with your heart instead of with convention (a sentiment that is hardly there), there's no real purpose behind the film.
It's impossible not to admire and praise the attempt at a film wholly created by women, but I wish it had been something I would want to watch again. Unfortunately, the story is predictable and has been done a dozen times before, and this one adds little in front of the camera aside from its casual sexuality and attempts at rounded characters.
Below Her Mouth is directed by April Mullen, written by Stephanie Fabrizi, and stars Erika Linder and Natalie Krill. It was produced with an all female crew, and releases in theaters on April 28th.