Make Your Bed. Lie in it.
I opted to watch and review “How To Fold A Fitted Sheet” because it intrigued me; the synopsis and premise was enticing. We’ve all had to deal with customer service support where we are constantly put on hold, fighting to get something fixed or changed, and more. It is utterly frustrating and feels like we’re pulling out our hair trying to resolve issues. Additionally, it IS challenging to fold a fitted sheet properly (not really, but I realise that many people just can’t quite figure it out). Lastly, I AM an immigrant living abroad. While I have never had to directly face deportation, Bellamy’s story could very easily be my own. And yes, it can feel like trying to neatly fold a fitted sheet. Let’s break down what makes this queer short film so great – despite one major script flaw.
Synopsis of “How To Fold A Fitted Sheet”
Ocean waves, soft gentle music playing. Bellamy (May Kelly) walks along the beach posing for photos with her girlfriend, Val (Franchesca Davis). It’s a peaceful afternoon exploring the seashore. They lean in and share a kiss. Suddenly we’re back in Bellamy’s home as elevator music plays on her phone. A man’s voice chimes in: “Welcome to Columbia Savings Bank”, before continuing into his intro spiel. As Bellamy struggles to fold an orange fitted sheet, she tells Salvatore (Jesse Regis) that she hopes he can help her; he’s the third rep she’s spoken to today. After asking for her account number, which she doesn’t know offhand, he then asks for her social security number. Trouble is, she explains to Sal, she doesn’t have one. “Every American has one”, he scoffs at her. “I’M NOT AMERICAN”, she snaps back. “I’m being deported back home and need to move my money to a foreign savings account.” “Oh… please hold” is his response, as Bellamy is put back on hold again.
Sitting back down and reaching again to fold the fitted sheet, Bellamy is taken back to hiking in the woods with Val. Suddenly, Sal appears – in person wearing a red polo and khakis. Now ready to help Bellamy out, he asks her for all of her information – and continues down a slew of security questions including ridiculous things like her bra size, her grandfather’s burial place, and more. Frustrated, Bellamy snaps and asks him to please just let her into her account! “Aww, she said please”, he remarks. However, some of the answers she provide are incorrect. Bellamy turns up the charm, clearly sarcastically, and asks how Sal spelled her last name: with one “T” or two? Shaking her head in a mix of rage and disbelief, she tells him “There’s one bloody “T” in my last name, you twat!” “Please hold”, is his quick reply.
Back to the elevator music, Bellamy reminisces back on that special day in the woods overlooking a concrete building. Val grumbles about how she’ll miss Bellamy when she leaves, so Bellamy proposes. “Marry me!” Right then, Sal walks into the foreground of her vision, bringing Bellamy back to reality as he goes through the intro spiel. “Save me the spiel – did you get into my account” she snaps at Sal. “Yes, I did. But you just have to pay our account closing fee.” he informs her. Bellamy lets her mobile slip out of her hands and fall to the carpet, grabs the fitted sheet and just screams straight into it!
Back in the past, Bellamy and Val are at Val’s place. Val mentions how she wants a huge wedding, one that will make her sisters envious. But she doesn’t want it to be forced. “It’s not a get out of jail free card”. But Bellamy pleads her case, but we can’t have that. “If we don’t get married now, they’ll send me back to England”. She further questions if the relationship will last if they’re thousand of miles apart, leaving it hanging in the air. Back to present day, Bellamy curtly snaps to Sal that she has an international flight, two months rent left, bills coming out her ears, and now she has to pay for this too! Coldly, Sal replies that it’s all in the contract in the fine print. Clearly enraged and annoyed, Bellamy threatens to come after Sal – but even Sal doesn’t take the bait: “Coming after my kidneys doesn’t waive the cancellation fee”. Unable to scream or get further enraged, Bellamy’s anger bursts through as she just rips the folded sheet!
Dropping the phone, she just stares at the torn sheet. Pulled back in time, Bellamy revisits when she had to fill out the visa application. Val tries to console her, telling Bellamy that it’ll all work out fine. But Bellamy expresses that she’s afraid; afraid of things she didn’t even think about, going off on a tangent of worry. Bellamy brings up marriage again, “I’m ready”, she tells Val, “Aren’t you?” After sharing another kiss, Val eases Bellamy’s fears by telling her that if they try to kick Bellamy out of the country, then they’ll get hitched! Bellamy smiles, realising that things will actually work out. However, a few days later Bellamy gets a letter from immigration: her application for a new work visa was accepted! Terrified that her marriage plan is about to fail, she panics and rips up the approval letter. “I am nothing, if not a green card”, Bellamy recalls Val telling her.
Flashing through glimpses of the past, we return to Bellamy laying on the floor next to the torn fitted sheet. Sal is still on the phone, “Mrs. Becket, is there anything else I can do for you?” we hear from her phone up on the table. But Bellamy just rolls her head off to the side, looking at the camera as the credits start to roll.
Before I divulge the major flaw in “How To Fold A Fitted Sheet”, let’s go over all of the good stuff. Cinematographically, this queer short is very well done! There is a noted difference between the key scene of Bellamy in her living room while on the phone with customer support in contrast to all of the other scenes, but it works. The cooler blue tones of the outdoors scenes between Bellamy and Val are visually stunning – and blue is a calming colour hue. Contrasting the relaxed scenes of their relationship, the warm orange hues of Bellamy’s living room echoes her frustration and rage with Sal over at the bank’s customer support. Even the orange fitted sheet ties into the colour scheme, showing thought out production values which add an extra level to the story.
Another element that works exceptionally well is the transitional matching and editing. The cuts between Bellamy’s phone call transition back and forth with her recollections seamlessly. The gentle music accompanying their walk on the beach blends into the elevator music while Bellamy is on hold. Later, Bellamy reaches down to grab the fitted sheet – and suddenly her hand is reaching to grab Val’s hand as they walk together hand in hand. One of the best transitions was when Sal literally entered the foreground of the camera capturing Bellamy and Val up on the stone building. Breaking the forth wall, Sal literally brings Bellamy back to reality.
The cast of “How To Fold A Fitted Sheet” are superb. Jesse Regis’ acting is dry, and even a bit boring – exactly like most customer support agents! Franchesca Davis is chill and laid back, almost a perfect balance to Bellamy’s stressed out character. But it is May Kelly who excels with her portrayal of Bellamy. Because the storyline clearly notes that Bellamy is British, it was crucial to cast a British actress. [I actually find it even more humorous that the story posits a British woman at the centre, for while Brits are often thought to be a bit more refined than Yanks, it’s certainly not true!] To watch Kelly explode in rage and snap at Sal over the phone is hysterical – yet it’s so simple. But her real talent lies in the ability to show us a full range of emotions. When she’s walking along the beach with Val, it’s clear that she’s in love. Her annoyance then comes through while talking to Val about why she doesn’t want to marry her. And she runs through the entire emotional gamut just in trying to transfer money & close her bank account!
Best of all, we can relate to Bellamy’s experience. Her frustration is one most of have had to go through at some point in our lives. Being put on hold sucks and our minds very often wander only to be interrupted when the support agent returns. Equally, there are many folks who cannot figure out how to neatly fold a fitted sheet and usually resort to crumbling it up into a ball. I absolutely loved how Writer/Director Tony Clemente Jr. compounds and builds up Bellamy’s rage & frustration between the impossible phone call and the frustration of folding the sheet! The climax of her just ripping it in half is perfect. Even the quick fall into the denouement fits; Bellamy has reached her breaking point in the phone call and just simply lies there because there’s nothing more to do.
But what about the major flaw that just about ruined the film for me? No – it’s NOT the fact that the film doesn’t actually teach us how to fold a fitted sheet! However, my issue with this queer short is so nuanced that anyone who has not actually had to deal with immigration and visas probably would miss it. No one, and I repeat, NO ONE throws away something as important as an approved work visa. Especially not for something foolish like love or forcing your partner to marry you!
As I noted in the intro, I am an immigrant. I am an American living in New Zealand for the past three years; and I’ve previously lived & studied abroad in France. Because of this directly relationship to Bellamy’s story, I quickly was able to relate on an extra depth. Immigration IS frustrating, and the visa process is never simple. In the US, a social security number is so crucial that it’s something that most American’s take for granted; they do not realise the extra hurdles one has to go through as an immigrant without one. (And I won’t even go into the HUGE difference between tourist/visitor visas and work/residence visas – that’s a nightmare in itself!) I’ve been down the route of partnership visas, even though actually getting married didn’t matter for me personally. (It does make a huge difference when trying to secure a US visa though.) I had that visa option yanked out from under me about a month before the wedding, and just shy two months before my prior visa expired – I was left scrambling with a fear of being forced to return to the US.
But that was nothing to the terrorising fright when I was left in a worse situation a year later. After the prior visa debacle, I found and job and got everything sorted. Then Covid19 hit – I was made redundant, and “technically” no longer legal living in NZ. For almost a year I treaded that uncertainty between pandemic graciousness letting me remain with the dire need to find a job to be able to legally stay longer; all under the fear of being forced to return back to the US where Covid was ravaging everyone. (NZ has had one of the best responses to Covid world-wide, we’ve been living our lives as “normal” just after a few months of lockdown). Within weeks of running out of money, I thankfully landed a job and new work visa to be able to remain. My current job ended up working out well, but I would’ve taken any job if it meant not having to leave New Zealand – and I mean ANYTHING, as I applied to even garbage/recycling jobs!
Because of my personal story, I could very easily relate to Bellamy’s fears of not getting her next visa application approved. Heck, I even understand the strong desire to get married for the visa/green card. But in the scene where Bellamy opens and reads the letter from Immigration stating that her work visa is approved and she rips it up – I nearly screamed at her for being such foolish idiot! Especially since it’s presumed that she failed to follow through to finalise her next visa, thus her deportation & call to close her US bank account. We can also presume that her relationship with Val fell apart since she’s being deported. That one stupid decision destroyed any sympathy I had for Bellamy prior to that point in the script. Sure, I could still relate to her rage and frustration dealing with customer support throwing a curveball, like requiring an account closing fee. But my overall impression for “How To Fold A Fitted Sheet” plummeted with that one scene.
Could the plot twist have been written better? Absolutely! Had her visa application been denied instead of approved, then my sympathy for Bellamy would’ve remained – perhaps becoming stronger. Heck, there are even ways to keep the visa approval in the bigger picture yet still force Bellamy to being deported later on. The film isn’t entirely linear, there could be a whole entire year between the scenes with Val and the final phone call scene which would actually strengthen the reminiscent vantage. From a different viewpoint, Bellamy having her work visa approved actually means that she and Val can actually plan the dream wedding Val describes; they no longer are rushed or forced into such a quick life-altering decision. (But then again, where is the drama and suspense in that bit of realism!)
Alas, Tony Clemente Jr. decided to write Bellamy throwing away such a critical and life-changing things like a visa approval to the whims of “romance” and “love”. [Or perhaps that’s the point he’s trying to make?] For anyone who doesn’t fully fathom the significance of her action, this point probably went overlooked. Unfortunately, it very nearly ruined “How To Fold A Fitted Sheet” for me personally.
“How To Fold A Fitted Sheet” is everything a short film should be. It’s captivating, tells the story succinctly, our character is relatable for nearly everyone, and overall is quality work. It’s quite clear why this queer short film has been highlighted at many film festivals. I just wish that this film’s major storyline flaw had been better written, because that one scene ruined the film for me. Am I being a bit pedantic? Perhaps. Most folks probably wouldn’t have noticed or cannot fully understand why that one moment is so wrong. But even with that aside, I still strongly encourage you to watch “How To Fold A Fitted Sheet”. If you’ve ever had to call up customer support for anything, you’ll easily relate to Bellamy’s experience and frustration!
[You can watch “How To Fold A Fitted Sheet” on LesFlicks HERE!]
Queer Relevance of “How To Fold A Fitted Sheet”
At first glimpse for most, there isn’t much about “How To Fold A Fitted Sheet” that is queer relevant aside from the fact that Bellamy is a lesbian and in a relationship with her girlfriend, Val. However, there is a LOT of queer relevant things that are crucial but perhaps need a bit more explanation: LGBTQ immigrants, same-sex marriage, and how it relates to US visas.
Until same-sex marriage was legalised federally in the United States in 2015 with the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case, an immigrant could NOT use their same-sex marriage as part of their visa application process! Meanwhile, other immigrants could marry someone they just met and get their green card as a result. Massachusetts was the first US State to grant same-sex marriage in 2004, with other states slowly joining in. But from 2004 until 2014, LGBTQ couples were left in the dark with regards to US immigration policies; flat out being denied citizenship despite being in a stable, and often long-term relationship with a same-sex partner.
Prior to 2015, the plot of “How To Fold A Fitted Sheet” wouldn’t have made worked. In fact, there are a handful of older Queer films that address the issue of “straight” marriage just to secure the visa/green card. Thankfully in the US, that fear is behind us (though still threatened if a certain sect of the country would enter power again…). However, for other countries and immigrants, they still face the issue of visa discrimination because of their orientation. And I won’t even begin to go into the even messier world of discrimination against the trans community. So while at first blush the true significance of “How To Fold A Fitted Sheet” isn’t obvious, the history prior to this queer short film’s creation speaks for thousands.