Tru Love is a touching story of mourning and cross-generational lesbian desire set in Canada’s frigid winter, coming to Washington, D.C. in September by way of a screening hosted by Reel Affirmations.
Toronto’s gray, snow-capped skyscrapers form a fitting backdrop for Tru and Alice, who kindle a close connection in their search for relief from desolate periods they have each been weathering in solitude. Alice’s mature elegance shines through to Tru, a 30-something commitment-phobe who fled from romantic entanglements ever since running away from homophobic parents as a teenager. Alice accumulated her own share of burdens over the course of her much longer life; she became a widow just months earlier, and finds in Tru — played by co-director and co-writer Shauna McDonald — a partner for exploring romantic desires she repressed throughout her long marriage.
The death of her husband Richard brings no such freedom for Suzanne, their daughter, and one of Tru’s many prior flames. Suzanne sights a kiss between her visiting mother and lover-turned-friend, and resolves to bring their romance to a halt.
The subsequent scenes relegate the resentful daughter to the role of trapdoor-setting villain, which is a shame. Alice’s courtship with Tru places Suzanne in a mind-bendingly uncomfortable position, and the film could have benefitted from devoting more screen time to the complex welter of feelings she is presumably navigating. A brief snatch of dialogue hints at the indignation Suzanne feels over Alice’s newfound sense of liberation after her father’s death, but Alice’s grief over Richard’s passing commands a disproportionately strong on-screen presence. Her departed husband “follows” the aging woman throughout the film, challenging her in imagined conversations to explain why she never loved him with the same passion she feels for Tru.
Suzanne also hints at frustration from the ease with which Alice and Tru are falling in love, and in fact, their unlikely romance feels a little too easily won. Their introduction leads that same day to a candlelit dinner, with conversation veering through sexual and marital territory that others would find uncomfortable crossing with the mom of an ex.
Yet the almost unnatural pace of the relationship’s progress presses an engaging question: To what extent is such an unconventional pairing even about real romantic attraction? Tru is toeing the line between youth and middle age, and sees in the older Alice a vision for her own future. Meanwhile, Alice makes clear that she wanted to crack the code to her own sexuality long before meeting Tru. (Tru suggests within moments of their first meeting that lesbian women are relatively scarce, which Alice says is “a shame.”) The movie’s unexpected ending tugs up their budding relationship by its roots, if only to gaze at the tundra beneath and marvel that such an improbable thing could have flowered at all.
Tru Love debuted last Fall at London’s Raindance Film Festival. The D.C. screening takes place on September 19 at the Human Rights Campaign Equality Center, located at the corner of 17th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NW. For more information, visit http://www.reelaffirmations.org/tru_love.