Writer/Director Shawna Khorasani asked me to review her short, “Popping The Question” back in 2021 when it premiered. Unfortunately that was right when I decided to take a break from writing reviews and then suddenly, it’s 2023 – Whoops! Now that I’m getting back to writing reviews regularly, it felt right to give this lesbian short film a watch. Now when both the film’s title and the synopsis alludes to a proposal, we know what’s about to happen! However, the synopsis also throws us a curveball, making us ask the question: what is Lizzie’s surprise? While it was a surprise, I sadly wasn’t that impressed. However this lesbian short film is still rather cute and worth watching! Let’s break it down a bit, shall we?
Synopsis of “Popping The Question”
Nina and Lizzie are relaxing at the dinner table after enjoying a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner at home. Although when Nina remarks that it’s a shame that Lizzie had to work that day, an odd look comes over Lizzie’s face before she excuses herself to the bathroom. But Nina takes that moment when she’s out of the room to check on something in the cupboard – it’s a ring box! Lizzie returns shortly after and after nearly spying the box, Nina distracts her by pouring them both a glass of bubbly.
After toasting to sharing three years together, Nina makes her move – but slyly. Nina asks Lizzie to read a chapter that she is working on. Although Lizzie remarks that Nina has two best-selling novels and likely doesn’t need the help, Lizzie begins to read. While reading a rather romantic paragraph, she begins to suspect something’s up when it mentions the moment that they met. Suddenly, Nina opens the ring box to a shocked Lizzie proclaiming: “Lizzie, I love you to the moon and back – will you be my wife?”
But Lizzie doesn’t answer. Instead, she stands up and turns away from the table. “I have to tell you something”, she starts… before quickly confessing that she didn’t cheat on her or anything. After an awkward pause, Lizzie confesses that earlier that day her boss called her into the office – she got the job. “That’s a good thing, right?”, Nina inquires? Turns out the job is in London… Uncertain what else to say, Nina cautiously remarks that she worked hard for the job and she should take it. “Not without YOU”, Lizzie states, standing up and putting on the engagement ring. “Are you saying…” Nina starts, before Lizzie bursts out “YES!” After a kiss, Lizzie tells Nina, “I love you so much” as the camera zooms out while they lovingly embrace.
Before watching “Popping The Question”, the only way I thought a marriage proposal could go wrong is when the person being proposed to replies “No”. Don’t worry – that’s NOT the case here! However it wasn’t a great proposal either. There were just a couple of things that made me pause and question while watching this queer short film. The two biggest issues I had was the anti-climatic nature of Lizzie’s surprise and the awkwardness realization that her surprise shouldn’t have been a surprise at all nor should it have threatened a three-year relationship.
So let’s get right to it: Lizzie’s surprise. She was finally offered the job at work which she has been working hard towards for months – except the job is in London. (They don’t live in London, mind you.) If you’re wondering why that’s enough to literally interrupt a marriage proposal before answering… you’re not alone! I was just as puzzled. After all, Nina & Lizzie have been together for three years, they likely are living together – and given that Nina is aware Lizzie wanted this job, she should have known that the job was in London and would require Lizzie to move away. (The alternative answer is that Lizzie withheld that fact about the job from her long-term girlfriend – which isn’t any better!) Nina is a writer, a job which frankly can be done from anywhere in the world.
While I can understand that Khorasani wanted to provide a bit of conflict to what would otherwise be a purely romantic lesbian marriage proposal, I disagree with the concept of adding something just to provide said conflict. Especially when it doesn’t make sense – or doesn’t work the way it was intended. For comparison, let’s recall “Will You Merry Me?“, a lesbian Christmas marriage proposal where the conflict was both the waiter who kept interrupting and her partner’s phone that was a distraction. That conflict was humorous and worked well. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the same reaction while watching “Popping The Question”. Although I didn’t feel that our two female leads had the greatest chemistry together, which certainly didn’t help.
However, not everything was awkward! The rest of the cinematographic elements were actually quite decent. I have very little to say about camera angles or sound quality, as is often the case with indie films. And I actually liked Nina’s proposal itself! It was cute to ask Lizzie to read the actual proposal and see the realization come across her face. Had we not gotten sidetracked by the weird job in London bit, it would have been a charming proposal. In fact, after Lizzie remarks that she wouldn’t take the job without Nina, putting on the engagement ring to accept Nina’s proposal is utterly romantic! And that’s why the this queer lesbian short film is still worth watching.
Despite being quite confused with Lizzie’s mid-proposal surprise and the effect it has on the moment, “Popping The Question” is still a cute lesbian film. Khorasani remarked in her director’s statement that her goal is to bring a much-needed positive representation to LGBTQ+ stories. And while I always feel a bit awkward when I’m not a huge fan of a film I’ve been asked to review, I fully support her intention. We NEED more queer representation in cinema and media, including the sapphic stories that Khorasani and the team behind Lesflicks promote. So head over to Lesflicks and watch “Popping The Question”, a cute lesbian short film.
[“Popping The Question” can also be streamed on Fearless.]
Queer Relevance of “Popping The Question”
“Popping The Question” is a short story about two lesbian women, with a marriage proposal thrown in for extra oomph – it’s most certainly a queer short film! However, it’s more than that – especially in a time where same-sex marriage is legal in some countries, hangs in a delicate balance in others, and banned elsewhere. Simply proposing to your same-sex partner is a statement – and until we have world-wide equality, we can never have “too many” films depicting gay & lesbian marriage!
However writer/director Shawna Khorasani takes it a step further. She feels that “some recent movies with LGBTQ characters still feature drama, tragedy, forbidden love, coming out storylines, or unhappy endings. What kind of message does that send to queer women? They deserve happy endings and normal lives.” With her lesbian short film, “Popping The Question”, she hopes to help improve mainstream LGBTQ+ media representation.