2021 was an interesting year for queer film, although there were not many memorable photos. Only J Blakeson’s I Care a Lot and Harry Macqueen’s Supernova are worth searching for. One of them is a sizzling dark comedy and twisted delights with a career-defining performance by Rosamund Pike; the other is a sober, human portrait of the loss and acceptance of our own vulnerability in an ever-finite world. I hope Mona Fastvold’s recent film, the world to come, fell into the same category as those two films–but alas, there was almost nothing found in the film that kept my interest. The film is supposed to tell the story of Abigail (Katherine Waterston) and Tallie (Vanessa Kirby), opportunities of Dyer (Casey Affleck) and Freddie (Christopher Abbott), who [very] slowly fall in love with each other while keeping company while their husbands are away to work. While its cinematography is luxurious and varied, which beautifully complements its terrific acting, the world to come misses the one incident that makes any romantic drama shine: closeness.
Most of the dialogue in the film is conveyed through Katherine Waterston’s voice-over narration of Abigail-which explains the feelings she shares for her husband, Dyer, Tallie and her husband. Although voice-over narration is not necessary, its over-manipulation distances its audience from the main people of the film, making the film’s relationship with the two protagonists extreme cold. If there is no closeness and / or understanding of the psyche of the two people, there is nothing to claim. We will understand Abigail’s feelings for Tallie but what do you say about Tallie? A one–sided romantic drama is by no means convincing-since we only have access to the feelings of one individual. Thus, the relationship that slowly progresses into a relationship of passion does not seem rewarding for people and for the public.
The narration is also a sign of extreme distrust on the part of director Mona Fastvold and writers Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard (who adapted Shepard’s book of the same name himself). Textual, first-person narration is fine. Cinematographically, it’s not specifically especially when you’re trying to evoke infusing passion into the couple’s love for each other. Look at Supernova, Portrait of a Lady on Fire or, what I believe to be the quintessential LGBTQ+ drama of the last decade, Paris 05: 59 Théo & Hugo-love and passion are experienced by silence and the face from which the protagonists look. A micro-change in a character’s look can mean a fullness of things for a lifelong couple (like Tusker & Sam in Supernova) or how a new-met couple will meet (take a close look at how Céline Sciamma builds Marianne & Héloise’s first “look” in Portrait of a Lady on Fire). None of this is to be found in the world to come; Fastvold relies too much on voiceover to perceive Abigail’s love for Tallie and her hatred for Christopher’s Freddie Abbott…au place that this love is implicit, through silence and micro-facial expressions, so that it extends naturally.
Yes, the performance is excellent. Vanessa Kirby and Katherine Waterston both portray Tallie and Abigail extremely well-and particularly brilliant during close-up scenes when there is no voiceover narration. When they first peck, there is a brief silence that permeates between the two, which could be used as the “flowering” of a relationship, but the Waterston line that follows the meringue ruins the humor and momentum of the natural construction of the relationship between the two. It’s almost as if Fastvold doesn’t want to rely on audience intelligence to perceive a growing relationship and instead bows to basic insecurity through voiceover and poorly delivered lines to make sure the audience understands what’s going on.
The truth is: we don’t need to understand what happens through insecure filmmaking methods–we know that Abigail loves Tallie as much as Tallie loves Abigail. Why not show it instead of saying it? There is a big difference between the narration and the “monstration”, in the source the world to come also needed to infuse the latter instead of relying too much on Waterston’s unnecessary voiceover, which fills any instance with silence. If the voiceover didn’t matter with the story and overall direction of the film, the world to come would certainly have been a must-see but for now, it’s not something I recommend to anyone. Rest with Supernova instead.