Simone is a teacher at a stuffy Catholic boarding school for girls. Annabelle is a rebellious, cocky Senator's daughter. When she arrives on campus and enters Simone's class, Annabelle is instantly attracted to Simone, however Simone resists due to the power imbalance – she is after all, Annabelle's teacher – and the strict rules of the school that forbid a close relationship between teachers and students. Regardless, the two spend increasing amounts of time together as their attraction for each other builds, culminating on one rainy night that results in each woman's life changing forever.
It's difficult to know where to start with this film, as it works on so many levels. First of all, it is an absolute visual treat. Such care has been taken in filming, from the set design, to costuming, to the magnificent lighting, which helps to create a sense of hope and melancholy at the same time. Then there is the story, which has been told countless times, yet writer-director Katherine Brooks puts such a fresh spin on it that it is engrossing from beginning to end. Nothing, and I mean nothing, drags in this movie. From the time Annabelle steps onto the screen, with her pouty mouth and challenging stares, viewers will be riveted.
As Annabelle, newcomer Erin Kelly is a revelation. She will remind viewers of young Evan Rachel Wood in Thirteen. Annabelle is clearly the aggressor in the budding relationship, and with every strut, hair toss, and hip thrust, Kelly owns the screen. Diane Gaidry, as Simone, is the perfect complement to Annabelle's unabashed sexuality. Simone is hesitant, yet knowing. She has lived longer and seen more, and she no longer possesses the arrogant confidence of youth, yet she cannot help but be drawn to her student.
Loving Annabelle presents a sort of dubious morality. Annabelle is, in fact, underage, and Simone is her teacher. What the film does so well is to explore the sheer messiness of attraction; we are not always attracted to people who make our lives easier or who fit into our little corner of the world. Sometimes we are attracted to someone we have no business being attracted to, however attraction knows no logic; it is irrational, and Loving Annabelle illustrates this beautifully. It also goes a long way in dispelling the clichéd, often harmful view of two hot lesbians going at each other for the sheer pleasure of men; Annabelle and Simone are real people with real feelings, who face real consequences. Viewers will empathize with their plight.
The picture, presented in standard letterbox format, is absolutely beautiful. The campus and beach scenes, and especially the road scenes, are just gorgeous.
I rarely comment on soundtracks, as they so often tend to be a distraction, but the music in this film is great, and it sounds great in Dolby 2.0 Mono. Both the sound quality and the picture contribute to the overall viewing experience, making Loving Annabelle feel as though it is a much bigger budget production than it actually was.
There are a generous amount of extras included, especially given this film's indie status. I absolutely loved the alternate ending, more so even than the actual ending, as it lends more closure to the story while at the same time still allowing viewers to make up their minds as to what happens next. The featurette on the making of the movies, as well as the commentary, is truly instructive as to the filming process, the struggle of making a movie on a shoestring, and insights into the actors and their journey in finding the essence of their characters. Of particular interest is writer/director Brooks's description of how she was inspired to write the story, as well as her careful direction of the love scene. Those involved do the requisite gushing about how great it was to work with one another, but it comes across as genuine and sincere. The deleted scenes are also worth a look, as viewers will likely be left wanting more, and these scenes add more to the overall experience.
A winner, in every way. Check it out.