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Queer Family Films

7 min read

“Family” is a tricky word to define. It can mean different things in different situations, both positive and not-so-positive. When it comes to a family film, that vague depiction remains. Most would associate a “family film” with animation or a film made with young kids in mind – “a film for the entire family.” Yet it can also be a film that focuses on the importance of family to tell its story. Both would be correct. Which made picking five queer family films QUITE a challenge!

However I feel that these five queer family films provide not only a good coverage of how family can be used within cinema, but also how a queer character or storyline can easily belong in all kinds of family films. Naturally, I was pleased to discover a feature-length animated film (even though the queer character is so subtle that you can easily miss it!). But I was pleasantly surprised that another queer family film tackled the subject of young children sifting through their own gender identity – and thus how their family handled the situation.The other three merely help round out the concept of the importance of family can be to queer folks, yet equally address the struggles that family members can often go through in trying to understand and accept their queer relatives.

But in the end, family certainly takes centre stage in these five queer family films! Don’t you agree?

[Note: Not all of these films have full reviews yet – but they’re added to the quickly growing list of films I plan to tackle soon!]

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Based on David Walliams’ best-selling children’s book, “The Boy in the Dress” is a celebration of creativity, difference, football and fashion. Dennis (Billy Kennedy) feels different – an ordinary boy in an ordinary house in an ordinary street, playing football with his mates and living with his dad and brother, but frustrated by the boring grey world he inhabits. Life has never really been the same since his mum left. However, transformation can happen in the most unexpected places. Aided by Lisa (Temi Orelaja), the coolest girl in the school, Dennis creates a whole new persona and puts it to the ultimate test – but can a boy wear a dress, and what will the headmaster, his dad and his friends on the football team think if they find out?

This BBC film is a tad on the short side at just an hour long, but it’s surprisingly good! I’ll freely admit that I have not read the book this queer family film is based upon, although other reviewers noted that it’s not the best adaptation of the story and cuts a lot of corners. Some of that is reflected in the very fast moving pace of the film. However, the crux of the story remains solid – a young boy feels different from the other boys and is questioning who he is. With the support of a surprising new friend, Dennis is encouraged to give the gender identity he better associates with a try – and initially it works! There’s a clear change in Dennis’ attitude when wearing the dress. Unfortunately, drama has to ensue and it all comes crashing down. Yet in a pleasant twist, his friends, teammates, and even Dennis’s father quickly rally behind Dennis in support. The final surprise twist is even better!

In short, “The Boy In The Dress” is a great queer family film designed to show younger children that it’s OK to embrace the gender identity that you best relate to, and also the benefits to supporting such a transition. I encourage you to give this queer family film a watch!

There’s only two weeks left for the recently divorced Danny (Chris Finch) to re-marry and inherit his family’s estate. With time running out he turns to cyberspace to identify the man of his dreams and get married on time. Having created a master plan for the whole event, Danny is sure he’ll reach his goal; no problem. If they do it on TV, how hard could it be in real life?

“A Wedding Most Strange” should be called “A Film Most Strange!” While I actually enjoy watching this queer film, it has a bit of a convoluted storyline that requires some suspension of beliefs. Some of these are dated now, such as email and online adverts instead of just hopping onto Grindr or the other many dating apps out there. Others are… well, weird. Like the main premise that Danny can just swap in a new groom for his wedding – in just TWO weeks. And then plays a game of Matchmaker? Amid a the gimmicks and even the couple of laughs, there is a decent heartfelt storyline buried in this queer film. We have a family’s resistance to Danny’s homosexual life, which has its own happy ending of acceptance. We also have acceptance on both friend and fiancé level as well. And even though it all falls apart, Danny still gets a happy ending! If you’re keen for some kooky laughs and gimmicks, then “A Wedding Most Strange” is a good queer family film to watch.

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Dear Dad is a bittersweet coming of age story; involving a father-son duo – 14 year old Shivam (Himanshu Sharma), and his 45 year old dad Nitin Swaminathan (Arvind Swamy). The father-son duo embarks on an impromptu road trip from their home, in Delhi, to Mussorie (Uttarakhand), where Shivam attends boarding school. Unexpected confessions, weird strangers, accidental meetings, a drunken escapade and singing in the rain – all these add up to a complicated and sweet tale.

Oops – I still haven’t watched “Dear Dad” yet. However, this film is top on my list, and I’ll update my thoughts asap. Have you seen this queer family film? What did you think?

Two brothers, Rahul (Fawad Khan) and Arjun (Sidharth Malhotra), return home to visit their ailing grandfather to discover ongoing family problems, emotions get intensified when a girl causes a rift between both of them.

Wow! “Kapoor & Sons” surprised me – in a good way! This film is probably better classified as a queer drama film rather than a queer family film as the story is quite dramatic and unfortunately tragic. Yet even though it might be a different take than the other films, family still takes centre stage. In fact, it’s perhaps more a family film than a queer film! While I was captivated by the plot (and lost in elements that I assume are part of Indian cinema), I continually questioned where the queer element actually comes into play. When all the family drama came crashing down, the secret finally comes out – Rahul is gay! Initially, his mother does not accept him; the praised favourite son has lost his favour – which is part of why Rahul stated that he kept it hidden for so long. Thankfully things greatly improved in the last fifteen minutes as much of the family drama resolves itself. Even Rahul’s mother comes to accept Rahul, albeit very cautiously, giving the film a happy ending.

However what’s most powerful about “Kapoor & Sons” is how this mainstream Indian film changed Bollywood and Indian perception about homosexuality. Prior Bollywood films depicted homosexual characters in comedic stereotypes, not always in a positive way. Yet, Fawad Khan depicts Rahul as a man who has accepted his sexuality, yet struggles with telling his Indian family because he’s afraid of not being accepted. Many actual cite the film as a major advancement in the acceptance of homosexuality in India. And that is the main reason to watch this queer family film!

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In the town of Blithe Hollow, Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee) can speak to the dead, but no one other than his eccentric new friend Neil (Tucker Albrizzi) believes his ability is real. One day, Norman’s eccentric uncle tells him of a ritual he must perform to protect the town from a curse cast by a witch centuries ago. Eventually, Norman decides to cooperate, but things don’t go according to plan. Now, a magic storm of the witch threatens Blithe Hollow as the accursed dead rise. Together with unexpected new companions, Norman struggles to save his town, only to discover the horrific truth of the curse. With that insight, Norman must resolve the crisis for good as only he can.

Overall, “ParaNorman” is quite an enjoyable animated film! However, while it was included in IMDb and few other’s lists for being queer, at first glance I couldn’t determine what actually makes it a queer film, let alone a queer family film. The key point is a single line at the end of the film, when the muscular hunk Mitch makes a quick remark about “My boyfriend…” – A HA! Even though we see absolutely nothing about this supposed boyfriend, and there is nothing about Mitch that would give off even the over-done stereotypical “gay” vibes, “ParaNorman” can be classified as a queer film. And since it’s also an animated film geared towards the family, then it certainly is a queer family film! It’s rather cute to watch, but if you’re wanting a true queer storyline, this isn’t the film for that.