Femme review – unbearably tense queer London revenge thriller

Revenge is rarely a tidy business. But Femme, a savagely sexy queer erotic thriller, explores just how messily complex retribution can be. Set against a fretful, pulsing electronic score and unfolding in a world of sordid neons, it follows an east London drag artist who enters into a highly charged sexual relationship with his unwitting gay basher.

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Written and directed by first-time feature film-making duo Sam H Freeman and Ng Choon Ping, this is a teasing, slippery picture – a power-shifting tussle between out gay man Jules (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, excellent) and his tightly wound closeted attacker Preston (George MacKay), neither of whom are quite who or what they say they are. Jules and Preston are both skilled in slipping into other skins and identities. Jules’s drag alter ego, Aphrodite, is fearless and fabulous. “She was the real me and I was the performance,” says Jules, mourning the loss of his bolder persona. After the street attack by Preston, Jules no longer feels able to perform. And Preston jealously guards his sexuality from his gang of friends, with their bared teeth, hyena laughs and pack mentality. It’s bold, unflinching and almost unbearably tense.