For all the frustrations that 2017 has brought, the realm of queer cinema has been full of features that have thrilled, chilled, and fulfilled every expectation. Though most conversation this upcoming awards season will turn to the quaint, romantic coming-of-age drama Call Me by Your Name, the year's other lovely cinematic works deserve recognition too, including films with LGBT characters proudly presented onscreen and mainstream films that read as queer in their content, themes, and subtext.
Here are the ten best queer films of the year, in no particular order.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. Do you love Wonder Woman? Well, here's a biopic about the man who wrote her to life and the women who helped craft her existence. Angela Robinson's gorgeous Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman might seem like a conventional biopic from a distance, but it's an astoundingly subversive work of art in its portrayal of the queer relationship among William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), Elizabeth Marston (Rebecca Hall), and Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote). In adhering to the conventions of what a biopic might look like, Robinson not only explores polyamory but also injects the past with all the bondage and gleeful sexuality that doesn't need to be kept in the shadows. This film understands what Wonder Woman truly represents, showing that she's not all about swords and action, but about how submission, love, and an intelligent, emotional dialogue can solve so many problems.
Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo. If queer bodies on display are what you want, look no further than Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau's stellar Paris 05:59. Opening with an 18-minute sequence in a Parisian sex club that includes plenty of nudity, the film quickly becomes a romance in the style of Richard Linklater's Before trilogy. Geoffrey Couët and François Nambot, who play the titular Théo and Hugo, have such wonderful chemistry as they walk, bike, and talk throughout the city, all while being framed lovingly by the camera. Best of all is the way the film consciously explores a relationship between a man who is HIV-positive and one who is HIV-negative without an ounce of shame or criticism.
A Quiet Passion. After its early release this year, Terence Davies' A Quiet Passion has almost slipped under the radar. The film chronicles the life of American poet Emily Dickinson from her youth to her later years, covering her independent spirit, her reclusive nature, and her magnificent writing. Cynthia Nixon's tremendous talent and experience allow her to truly embody this woman who no one quite understands. Davies' script deftly shows how Dickinson shifted from witty to miserable. The poet's sexuality is never made explicit, but her admiration and interest in both men and women is implied, and her self-induced loneliness echoes that of numerous queer folks who felt trapped by the conventions of their time.
Princess Cyd. It's not a stretch to say that Stephen Cone's Princess Cyd is one of the most casual and loveliest films of the year. It tells the story of Cyd (Jessie Pinnick), a young woman who happens to fall for a girl in the neighborhood (Malic White) while visiting her novelist aunt (Rebecca Spence) over the summer. It's an absolute pleasure to watch Pinnick and Spence interact throughout the film, whether they're sunbathing on the lawn or discussing literature. And Cone's ability to show how queerness and spirituality intersect is rather beautiful, never critiquing any of his characters for loving what they love and finding happiness. As one of them says, "It is not a handicap to have one thing but not another, to be one way and not another. We are different shapes and ways, and our happiness is unique. There are no rules of balance."
Beats per Minute (BPM). Robin Campillo's BPM is a film about bodies in motion, about people who are dying and those around them acting up to make a statement. Dropping us into ACT UP meetings in '90s Paris and then diving into the lives of the activists (many of whom are HIV-positive), the film rarely leaves us a moment to catch our breath. We watch the brilliant ensemble (including Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adèle Haenel, and Antoine Reinartz) challenge and grow increasingly intimate with one another, and Campillo is as interested in showing their politically charged repartee as he is in exploring how these people love and make love. There isn't a single tragic cliché in this film about people who are dying; instead, it focuses on how to celebrate life while confronting death.