A sharp and refreshing film, Treacle shows us how misunderstood bisexuals can be, to even those who are closest to them. Rosie Westhoff’s short gives us plenty to ponder in this layered film.
Jessie (Wilder Yari) has just broken up with her boyfriend yet planned a weekend birthday trip. So taking her bisexual friend Belle (April Kelley) with her instead, the duo find themselves in a position neither expected.
With April Kelley’s scripts, you sense that she can take a moment that has happened in her or someone she knows life and reconstruct it for the screen perfectly. As with her other scripts, there is a relatability to the situations and the characters that strike home far better than other films of the same ilk would.
What Kelley and Westhoff explore so well here in Treacle is show that while people who are bisexual do have sexual feelings for multiple genders, that does not mean that they do not have feelings. They are not disposable, people to use when needed. They, too, fall in love and want what others do in a partner. So what could be a small, almost harmless moment for us could mean something all the more real and meaningful to them. It is pretty self explanatory to write that, but somehow it is forgotten.
If you know someone who is bisexual, you will have seen this situation sadly play out countless times. You see how deeply it cuts when it appears as if they have been used. With Treacle, a light can be shone on moments like this to show the consequences of such actions to bisexuals. Using a friend, especially a close friend, as a phase isn’t right, and it should be highlighted more. Film and TV have generally toed a familiar line about bisexuality in that they are either closeted gays or that they are “greedy” and just want to sleep with whoever is going. They completely remove the human element of the person, and Kelley is keen to claim that back, as well she should with her script.
Wilder Yari and Kelley do some great work here as the two have wonderful chemistry, and with the depth they are given in the script, you latch onto them quickly. You see how close they are to supporting one another, but Jessie still doesn’t quite understand Belle’s sexuality despite their friendship. She asks about whether she is actually bi because of who she may imagine marrying, a man or a woman. So, while the two are connected, there are clues that there is a barrier between them.
Treacle is a film that could easily go on for longer with zero complaints; we feel comfortable with these characters and, despite their current situation, feel for both of them in different ways. Unfortunately, Kelly and Westhoff decide to cut away from where their journey leads next, and while that can be a tad frustrating, it is wholly intentional. We are not expected to know where their journey goes, only that it happened and the immediate consequences of those actions.
The refreshing aspect of the film is when the pass is made. In other media, this would be the big moment, we get to see the two friends connect in a physical way, and everything should be all sunshine and roses. But here, we have a character who has gone down this road before and been severely burned from it. When the night of joy turns to a morning of regret, anger begins to brew within Belle. She is a woman who knows what this now was for her friend; there was no fondness after the fact, there is no happy ending, their friendship has changed and, seemingly because her close friend needed an outlet. It is actually quite exciting to see such a moment on screen, such as its rarity.
Filling out the drama is a multitude of comedic warmth that soaks into your skin, whether that is the father and son at the gas station or the light-hearted nature of most of Jessie and Belles’s conversation. You become pulled into the film, so the need to get away from the tension between the two becomes inescapable when the pain comes.
Westhoff and her team do some great work here from a visual standpoint. The warm nature of almost the entire film leads you into a false sense of security. So when the atmosphere changes between our two characters, you somehow feel that cold shudder, despite the warmth trying to glow through. Something has changed, and conveying that in such a short time period shows how well-crafted a piece this film is.
Treacle is a film that you could rewatch again and grasp more meaning from upon every watch. It is an intelligent short that takes the story out of hands and shines a light on sexuality that is often overlooked—a very effective film.
Treacle was made in collaboration with the Bisexual Resource Centre. Treacle is the first part of a trilogy of films directed by women tackling themes of sexuality and mental health, the second in this series was Do This For Me and the third Just In Case
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