I cannot remember the last LGBTQ movie I watched that didn’t use queerness as a plot device, end in the death of a queer character, or feature gratuitous sex designed for the male gaze. The latest feature from Nicole Conn, the pioneering filmmaker behind Elena Undone and A Perfect Ending, avoids all three of these banal stereotypes. Instead, More Beautiful For Having Been Broken combines queer romance with a poignant story about a boy with special needs, all while keeping the audience smiling.
The film begins against the backdrop of the California mountains and a hauntingly beautiful orchestral score. FBI agent McKenzie “Max” De Ritter, played by Australian actress Zoe Ventoura, is driving through the mountains, returning to a small lakeside town after her mother has passed away. Though many parts of the film are emotionally intense, Conn does not shy away from cute romantic tropes. Within the movie’s first few minutes, Max meets Samantha, played by Kayla Radomski from So You Think You Can Dance, who is hiding in the forest, fully nude, and about to go for a swim in the lake.
While the budding romance between Max and Samantha is a slow burn, it doesn’t matter because I was too busy falling in love with Samantha’s son Freddie, who has a rare genetic disease called Fanconi Anemia. Conn’s decision to portray a young boy with special needs was part of the inspiration for the film, as she has a son with special needs. On creating the film, Conn explained: “After years of being impacted by [my son’s] world . . . I wanted people to understand how truly magical our kids are and what they bring to our lives and how they can be the conduit to great love and healing.” And that’s exactly the role that Freddie plays in this film, both as a centerpiece to the town and a means to bring Samantha and Max together.
Over the course of the film, and with a little help from Freddie as his mom’s wingman, Max and Samantha’s relationship blossoms. But the film is so much more than this captivating romantic arc; by the end, we really see how much Max has grown as a protagonist from learning how to deal with the death of her mother to truly seeing Freddie for who he is. Max also learns how to really appreciate all that life has to offer, and it’s just an added bonus that she ends up falling for Samantha.
At its core, More Beautiful For Having Been Broken is ultimately about finding strength on the emotional journeys of life. And there’s even some intrigue and mystery thrown in, with various flashbacks interspersed throughout the film that lead to shocking revelations about Sam and Max’s pasts. All in all, this film has a lot of heart, and reminds us that despite hardship, sometimes life can be “more beautiful for having been broken.”
More Beautiful for Having Been Broken will be released digitally in all countries on May 8.