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Don’t You Let Me Go is the time-traveling queer romance we need right now

The new queer fantasy Don’t You Let Me Go is the rare queer movie that lets its characters be happy

Don't You Let Me Go
Image credit: Alpha Violet

Don’t You Let Me Go starts in the place where so many queer romances end: With one of the characters dead.

The film, which made its world premiere this past weekend at the Tribeca Film Festival, opens at a funeral parlor. In it, two girls run in circles in the lobby — an activity with some nice foreshadowing for what is to unfold — the 30-something Adela (played by Chiara Hourcade) mourns in parlor with others for her childhood friend Elena (Victoria Jorge)L. As various friends and family tell stories, try to get the crucifix removed from the room, or weep, Adela looks on, devastated. Toward the end of the day, she confides to a friend that she was in love with Elena. She wonders if Elena ever knew how she felt.

But immediately after the funeral, Adela receives a mysterious gift: a magical bus ride back to a weekend she spent with Elena and their friend Luci (Eva Dans) and her toddler son Paco shortly before Elena’s marriage to her future husband. Over the course of a sweet, gauzy hour we watch the two of them first alone together, lying on the beach and trading Inspector Maigret novels. In voiceover Adela tells us of becoming a vegan for a time when Elena stopped eating, of dyeing her hair a different color every month when she became a hairdresser. After picking up Luci and Paco the three have a fun evening filled with drinking, dancing, and sharing.

We’ve seen endless time travel/alternate dimension movies like this. They almost always turn on the fact that at some point the traveler is going to have to go home, making everything they’ve experienced bittersweet. Don’t You Let Me Go seems headed in that direction: The following morning, as everyone else packs to go home Adela simply stares at Elena, grief-stricken. When Adela hugs her tight, saying “I’ll miss you so much,” the puzzled Elena tells her she shouldn’t. “I’m right here now.” And while the affection between the two characters has been clear from the start, there’s something in the way Elena says this, a sort of “you big dope” matter-of-factness that suggests of course she loves Adela, too.

As the two embrace, Luci calls for them. Heading into the kitchen, they discover that Luci and Paco are on board a now-moving sailing ship in a photograph on the wall. This isn’t the first magical realist touch in the film—earlier on Adela collects flat stones on the beach which have been painted to look like eyes. From time to time the eyes blink. Plus there’s the bus that brought Adela here. The idea that you can step into a photograph here feels equally believable and satisfying.

Don't You Let Me Go
Image credit: Alpha Violet

The two decide to join Luci and Paco, and the four enjoy a wonderful afternoon sailing. But rather than offering this as a last day together, something special for Adela to remember Elena by, the film ends with them together on the boat, their future seemingly their own to write.

Early in the film, Adela reveals that Elena once told her “To stop crying, look in a mirror. Because crying makes you look ridiculous.” Don’t You Let Me Go holds a mirror up to so many other queer romances, and shows the great stories that are possible when you stop forcing queer characters to weep and simply let them be happy.

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Jim McDermott

Jim McDermott: Jim is a magazine and screenwriter based in New York. He loves the work of Stephen Sondheim and cannot take a decent selfie.


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