Sometimes all you need is some perspective.
In the wake of a turbulent US election season that saw not just political outsiders but an actual presidential candidate publicly spreading messages of hatred, bigotry, denial, and virtually no compassion for “the other” (whoever that may be), it is beyond important that we all take a moment to step away from the 24/7 insanity and gain some perspective. Thankfully, the latest work by Kim Rocco Shields does just that.
An expansion of her short film by the same title, Love Is All You Need? is an intriguing and very personal look at what it feels like to be persecuted for what you look like, who you are, and whom you love. Shields redefines the concept of normalcy with this work, and weaves a provocative journey that leaves even the most socially conscious audience member questioning his or her past actions and beliefs.
After an abrupt and jarring flash forward, the film welcomes the audience to a small midwestern college town. Happy children play in front yards, families attend the local church, mothers deliver minivans full of kids to soccer games, and the local college football team is playing a big game under the lights. However, the audience is startled by more than the last second game-winning touchdown. As football helmets fly off in celebration, we see that this is an all female football team, led by All-American quarterback Jude Klein (Briana Evigan).
Following the game, Jude joins her girlfriend, future Homecoming Queen Kelly (Emily Osment), in celebration at a local house party. The alternate reality of this story is gradually revealed, as the audience comes to see that homosexual relationships are the norm. Heterosexuals, or breeders, are queer and looked down upon. While waiting in line for the bathroom, Jude soon finds herself in conversation with Ryan Morris (Tyler Blackburn), an aspiring sports journalist who is as impressed with Jude’s personality as he is with her play.
As time progresses, Jude and Ryan grow closer and begin to develop feelings for one another. Feeling that this is wrong, Jude seeks the counsel of her local pastor, Reverend Rachael (Elisabeth Röhm). Rachael is known for her divisive crusade against the abomination of heterosexuality, and seeks to keep Jude’s relationship with Kelly on course. On the other hand, the heterosexual counselor at Jude’s college, Susan Miller (Ana Ortiz), offers Jude a different way at looking at how she is feeling. Jude finds herself conflicted in the middle.
Meanwhile, a young girl named Emily Curtis (Kyla Kennedy) seems to have the world at her fingertips. Emily has a stable home life, with two strong and loving mothers. However, her friendship with a local boy named Ian (Jacob Rodier) has made Emily the target of bullying, mostly at the hands of Ian’s sister Paula (Ava Allen).
One night, Jude and Ryan finally give in to their feelings. Jude sneaks away in the evening, avoiding her girlfriend Kelly, and enjoys a romantic exchange with Ryan. Unfortunately, the two are not alone. Kelly catches Jude cheating on her with a hetero male, and decides to make her disgust for this affair public. Within hours, Jude discovers photos of her with Ryan posted all over campus. Her friends abandon her, her teammates no longer have her back, her pastor incites an angry mob against her, and the ones she loves most are all disappointed in her. Except for Ryan.
When the biggest football game of Jude’s career kicks off, she is an outsider in her own locker room. On one tragic play, her offensive line decides to give up on her, enticing the opposing defense to take a free pass to “smear the queer.” They acquiesce, collapsing on the pocket and putting Jude in a coma. Simultaneously, Jude’s lover Ryan is kidnapped, tortured, and beaten. His dead body is later found at the place where Jude and Ryan first started falling in love.
As if this tragedy wasn’t enough, the audience must also endure the queer-bashing of young Emily. After being beaten, spit on, and having the word “HETERO” scrawled across her forehead in permanent marker, Emily elects to take her own life. She is thankfully saved by her mother, who kicks down the bathroom door to save her daughter.
As Ryan’s body is interred, we see Jude and Emily coming to terms with what has just happened in both of their respective lives. In a mixture of grief and persecution, the two girls manage to find solace in each other and in the fact that they are not alone and they are survivors. Even if the rest of the world is all fucked up.
Shields’ stirring work grabs the audience from the first scene and maintains that connection, even as an intricate web of character interactions is weaved throughout the plot. This expertly written film delivers an often recognized and even more often overlooked perspective on same sex relationships by way of a clever twist in the storyline. By film’s end, it is only natural to start questioning one’s own perspectives on what is normal, and what really makes us all that different anyway. Love Is All You Need? gives us all something to think about before throwing the next punch. Or late-night Twitter tantrum.
All pictures reproduced courtesy of Genius Pictures