The Future of Film is Female presents “LYLE”

The first Pride was a riot. Heading towards the fifty-fifth anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riot gives us the opportunity to reflect on how far queer rights have come, and what’s left to achieve. It’s all intersectional with gender equity, a quiet revolution we fight at The Future of Film is Female, and so it’s an honor to present a selection of three essential, truly independent queer films from the past ten years in celebration of this month and the ongoing movement.

Two of the films we’ve programmed, Lyle and Knocking, utilize the horror genre (best when with socio-political undertones). Stewart Thorndike’s debut feature, Lyle, tackles the legacy of Rosemary’s Baby with the story of those closest to you being the real danger but with a queer lens. Knocking, the 2021 Swedish thriller directed by Frida Kempff is a quiet unraveling of a woman, alone in a new apartment, battling insanity after losing her wife. It’s a real contender for the “house of psychotic women” subgenre where what she believes to hear just may, if fact, not be in her mind.

The third film, Celia Rowlson Hall’s 2015 debut film MA (no, not that other Ma) is an otherworldly exploration that nearly defies explanation. Her dialogue free film in which she stars, directs, and choreographs follows a young woman making a pilgrimage to Las Vegas to give birth to our savior. Maybe these films will save us too.

–Caryn Coleman, film programmer and founder of The Future of Film is Female

LYLE: the Lesbian Rosemary’s Baby

By Brittany Shaw, film programmer and educator

It’s impossible to talk about Stewart Thorndike’s 2014 Lyle without quickly uttering the words “lesbian Rosemary’s Baby,” so there it is.

Thorndike’s shoestring budgeted independent film Lyle is set in 2014 Brooklyn, rather than the Upper West Side in 1965, but the essential premise remains. Rosemary, known here as Leah (played by Gaby Hoffman, who perfectly embodies her trademark archetype of wild-eyed child meets primordial goddess), is married to an indifferent, if not callous, spouse who wants fame above all else. Satanic neighbors, grief, loneliness, and New York City real estate too good to be true plague the characters of both films. But queering the central relationship is not enough to set our heroine free. John Cassavetes’ Guy is replaced with Ingrid Jungermann as June, who is less dream butch wife and more Shane “leave-Carmen-at-the-altar” McCutcheon, if Shane then made a deal with the devil instead. Both Guy and June view their children as disposable (“We can have more,” June pleads to Leah mid-birth, desperate to hand over their child to the cult – as if it’s a spilled beer at happy hour), embodying the most violent form of patriarchy. Queerness is not liberation in Lyle – or was having the partner and the brownstone and two children not queer enough?


All is not lost for Leah, though. Unlike Rosemary, she kills her abuser. She self-liberates. The film’s last sounds are the first of her baby girl’s life, crying over a cut to black, and as a viewer, I choose to imagine Leah running far, far from that brownstone, and never looking back. Am I taking the liberation fantasy too far if I point out that Leah gives birth in—and drowns June in—an inflatable tub, perhaps not unlike the hot tub Roman Polanski raped a thirteen-year-old girl in back in 1977?

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