Femme Review

Months after drag performer Jules (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) is beaten in a homophobic attack, he sees the man who did it (George MacKay) in a gay sauna — and sets about seeking revenge.

by Sophie Butcher |
Published on

Neo-noir meets erotic thriller meets queer revenge tale in Femme, the feature debut from writer-directors Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping, based on their 2021 award-winning short of the same name. It stars Misfits and Candyman’s Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as Jules, a drag artist who goes by the name Aphrodite Banks on stage, introduced via a lavish lip-sync routine. That’s followed quickly by a chilling homophobic encounter with a group of men — headed up by George MacKay’s Preston — in a corner shop that leaves Jules bloody, bruised and completely traumatised.

Months later, when Jules sees Preston in a gay sauna, he concocts a plan to expose him — to sleep with him, film it, and share it online. This sets up a tense, exhilarating, often-uncomfortable exploration of sexual manipulation and shifting senses of masculinity — a pulse-pounding thriller delivered through a fascinating dual character study.


Stewart-Jarrett is mesmerising as Jules, embodying complete and utter empowerment in his Aphrodite persona every bit as convincingly as he does the shrinking, shell-shocked version of him post-beating. He goes looking for comfort in the destruction of his attacker, but finds a strangely compelling connection with Preston instead. What starts out as rough, meaningless sex — during which Jules sometimes seems as attracted to Preston as he does afraid of him — develops into something deeper, and Jules’ adherence to a more heteronormative gender expression to fit in with Preston’s mates sees him eventually start to experiment with exerting dominance over him, flipping the script to stay in control.

Nathan Stewart-Jarrett's chemistry with George MacKay is off the charts .

His chemistry with George MacKay is off the charts — breaking out of his more conventional, leading-man-type roles in 1917 and the like, MacKay here leans into the dark menace and hyper-masculinity he exhibited in Justin Kurzel’s True History Of The Kelly Gang. Preston is a hot-headed, animalistic presence, his chin constantly lifted in defiant aggression, MacKay physically transformed through a layer of tattoos and costume design. Your fists clench whenever he’s on screen, waiting for the thing that’s going to set him off, the foot that Jules puts wrong. It’s to MacKay’s credit that he inspires this kind of fear as well as sympathy later on, as Jules starts to get under his skin, and we get an idea of what made him this way.

This kind of revenge story isn’t new, and neither is the idea of a closeted homophobe projecting his internal shame onto those comfortable in their identity. There’s also little surprise in where the narrative eventually ends up — though the final few scenes are undoubtedly gut-wrenching — and whether it’s a worthwhile exercise to generate compassion for someone who so casually committed such a violent hate-crime is up for debate. But here, execution matters — the clarity of directorial vision, grounded screenplay and excellent performances make Femme a vividly compelling ride.

George MacKay and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett utterly thrill in this sexually charged, suspense-filled watch. Don’t let this one pass you by.
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