Love Spell has to be one of the highlights of the Women X Film Festival for me. It brings a Northern-English lesbian twist to the classic 90’s teenage Rom-Com, aka everything I could ever want in a film. Not only is this combination of American romantic comedy tropes and Northern colloquialisms hilarious at times, but its creators noted in the Q&A that it aims to “tackle representation in a positive and uplifting way”. Based on the writer and director Lauren Vevers’ experiences coming to terms with her own sexuality as a teenager in the north-east, this is a heart-warming short that comments on LGBT+ representation in the media, and how vital it is.
The 90’s inspiration is clear immediately, not only by the props, set and costume but when Amber, the protagonist, breaks the fourth-wall with a direct address to camera. However, rather than fighting with her friends over boys, Amber is fighting an internal struggle. She’s gay, and in love with her best friend Demi.Amber, like Vevers when she was younger, is obsessed with Buffy The Vampire Slayer, so much so that she has a Buffy shrine. This obsession is rooted in the programme’s LGBT+ representation, as one of the first shows to air a lesbian sex scene. Amber finds solidarity and power in this TV show, something that I’m sure many LGBT+ people can relate to. It is through seeing herself on screen that Amber finds hope and the courage to come out to Demi (be it in the form of a spell). Vevers notes that she wanted to make a film about this magic, finding someone like you and knowing you’re not alone; I can confirm that this film is magic.
On a more serious level, the fact that Amber must rely on a supernatural, fictional world in order to feel visible shines light on the fact that we need more realistic LGBT+ representation. Rather than finding a space for herself in a fantasy world, if there was more representation of everyday people like her, Amber could be empowered by seeing a space for herself in this world. In making this film, Vevers does exactly this. She creates a short that not only comments on representation but is a piece of representation itself. The realistic north-east characters, the fact that Demi normalises Amber’s sexuality by responding, “so what?” when she comes out. Telling this story is giving more vital realistic representation, and as a lesbian from the north-east I am so thankful for it.
This film does everything a short should aim to achieve; leaves you wanting more. Although it is a great short, I would love to have seen this project be given a higher budget, and even be developed into a full feature film, so that it can explore these characters and their context further.