Abby Ableman is a lesbian housewife and stay-at-home mom who suffers from a concussion after being hit in the forehead by a baseball and subsequently she experiences a mid-life crisis. As a result she begins to realize how much her day-to-day life bores her and thus enters into the world of top-dollar prostitution as a means of compensating for a (mostly) sexless marriage. This about sums up the premise of "Concussion", a semi-autobiographical film by writer/director, Stacie Passon.
One of the first things I think of when I see this movie is how much I love the independent film market and it's never-ending capability to allow filmmakers and screenwriters almost (if not totally) complete creative freedom -- a very important trait when dealing with LGBT* themes.
Another thing it reminds me of is the unabashed over-sexualization of lesbian characters and/or themes that occurs in a lot of modern popular media (even stories marketed specifically for the LGBT* demographic); don't get me wrong, there's nothing inherently regressive about (most) depictions of women having sexual encounters with other women, but there is a perplexingly high amount of lesbian films that feature at least one long sex scene and an astonishingly low amount of lesbian films that don't feature any sex scenes at all. Even many films that aren't strictly about lesbian themes will often have lesbian sex scenes in them ("Black Swan" anyone?). Again, I'm not pointing this out to say that these films shouldn't be allowed to show sex between women, quite the contrary -- they absolutely should, but the lack of gay/lesbian films (especially the latter) that focus on romance over sexual relationships is more than a little disheartening, and I know for a fact that I'm not the only one bothered by this.
So where does "Concussion" fit into this apparent trend? For a story that would seem to have "soft core porn" written all over it, this film is surprisingly subtle in it's approach to sex scenes: the scenes are always short unless the characters are speaking to each other; most of your attention is always on characters' faces; and the scenes usually cut in before and after and during, so to put emphasis on the emotional feeling of the scene rather than letting it grow to feel hallow. It is the absolute polar opposite, for instance, of the Palm D'Or-winning french film "Blue Is The Warmest Colour" (another lesbian romance film that was released in 2013), in which there are several sex scenes each lasting several minutes in length: the scenes are often graphic, messy, noisy, and thoroughly unromantic (not to mention paced very strangely). Though I compare "Concussion" to "Blue" not as an insult to the latter film (it's actually quite good, all in all), but rather as a kind of diagram to show just how sex-focused films in this "genre" (do we really like calling it that?) have become and how important it is for more films to show a less problematically cliched perspective. And yes, I do think "Concussion" tries it's best to subvert this as well as it can, but it's plot admittedly still make the exploitative qualities difficult to avoid.
If there is anything well written in this film, it's the characters and the dialogue. Passon's dialogue comes in the form of awkward banter, and sometimes the set-up for a ridiculously awkward one-liner is so hilariously bizarre and out-of-the-blue that the main character's only logical response is silence accompanied by a glare. The Characters themselves are smart, realistic, and funny (and at times even a little saddening); but the glory and treasure of the whole film is Robin Weigert's performance in the lead role and how well-written of a character she is in the first place.
"Concussion" is a uniquely edgy story about a woman who realizes she's still learning who she is, and then comes to realize that everyone she knows is still learning too. I look forward to seeing both Passon's and Weigert's future projects.