Ah, Senior Prom. A night that many LGBTQ folks either loved because they could fully express themselves, or they dreaded. For Lauren, it’s actually both! Despite going with her best friend “Flash”, she actually changes into a tux and meets up with her crush – Sam. But the two girls sharing their first kiss is not the only dramatic twist of this queer short! Read on to find out more, as well as find out what I thought about Lorena Gordon‘s latest queer short film, “At Last”.
Synopsis of “At Last”
Lauren is in her room, staring at herself in the mirror while wearing her bright satin blue prom dress. “I look ridiculous”, she mutters. However, she begrudgingly goes downstairs where her parents fawn over how beautiful she looks (as mom snaps multiple photographs). Thankfully her date, James aka “Flash” arrives at the door. After the obligatory photos, they head on out to the car. But before they drive off, Lauren expresses her concerns and admits being nervous tonight. But Flash encourages her, and is proud to be there supporting Lauren.
Once at school for the prom though, Lauren heads off to the bathroom. Inside a stall, she takes off her corsage & prom dress – before donning a tuxedo & wiping off her makeup. “I got this” she encourages herself. After a quick approval from Flash, they head into the gym for the dance itself. But once inside, Sam’s nerves kick back in again when Flash points out Sam all alone across the dance floor. Not letting her bail, he pushes Lauren over towards her crush. After a quick introduction and the apropos small chat, Sam tells Lauren that she looks great – pulls off the tux better than most guys. Suddenly the DJ puts on Etta James’ “At Last” and encourages everyone to grab the nearest person and dance with them. Surprisingly, Sam bites the bullet and asks Lauren to dance! After a short time dancing, Lauren asks Sam if she wants to get out of here. They run off towards the baseball field where they share not only their own private slow dance but their first kiss!
Later after prom, Lauren and Flash are hanging out on a rooftop. Lauren thanks Flash for always being there. But Lauren admits that she’s still scared about what others will think – and what her family will think. There’s all the pressure to be perfect because she’s an only child. But Flash tells her that her parents will still love her. Suddenly, Lauren’s dad calls! Reluctantly she picks up, and after the typical parental checkup Lauren finally confesses that she loves her parents which starts to worry her dad. She finally bites the bullet and admits, “I’m gay”, before apologising. But her dad tells her “Don’t ever say your sorry. I love you unconditionally.” As her tears of sadness turn to tears of joy, Sam walks up and they share a quick kiss. “Welcome to the club!”, she cheerily tells Lauren. Meanwhile at home, dad looks at a photo of Lauren and just mutters “Kids”. As the credit music begins, all three kids look up together towards the sky and their future.
There are a handful of things I really enjoyed while watching “At Last”. I’m certainly a sucker for a good coming out story and this one is quite cute. Lauren is all nervous and shy; going back and forth between having the courage to talk to her crush Sam but then being terrified and trying to bail. Thankfully it’s her best friend James, aka “Flash”, who keeps encouraging her to follow through. The dialogue is both realistic and heartfelt. There’s a second story though: Lauren coming out to her dad. Again, this larger storyline is honest and truly captures that feeling of terror before finally blurting it out – and the relief once it’s finally out there. Though I have to admit that at the start of the short and after Lauren changed into the tuxedo, I actually thought this was a trans story. It threw me for a bit, along with getting a yoyo feeling bouncing between the two plots. Had the story focused on only one, I think the film would’ve been stronger.
However a strong element to “At Last” is the casting. I absolutely loved Zack Gottsagen as James/Flash! As an actor with Down’s Syndrome, it was encourage and refreshing to see the inclusiveness to the casting – and he did a great job! Equally Katie Burton is fabulously awkward & charming as Lauren. Looking great in both the prom dress and the tux, she bounces between being nervous and excited, with a dash of romance along with her costar Tricia Brooks. And let’s not forget George Lopez as Lauren’s dad, a great fatherly figure who loves his daughter unconditionally.
Cinematographically, it’s also quite impressive. There are a few slower moments, but they oddly work amid the rest of the film’s pacing. And I absolutely enjoyed how they wove in the music between each scene. (Plus I LOVE “At Last”, it takes me back to high school and the jazz band I sang with). Overall, it was enjoyable to watch “At Last”, a queer short the captures that awkwardness and beauty of coming out in high school.
Although decently shot and featuring a talented cast that creates a cute cohesive, I wasn’t a huge fan of “At Last”. It’s really two different storylines within the same short, and because of that the timing felt off. However, it’s still a cute & charming story of two lesbian teenagers sharing their prom night together. It’s still making the film circuit rounds, but I encourage you to find a way to watch this Queer short film!