During a weekend summer getaway in a luxurious villa, friends Belle (April Kelley) and Jessie (Ariana Anderson) have an intimate encounter that creates a rift between them. For Jessie, a straight girl who has just broken up with her boyfriend, it was just meaningless, spur-of-the-moment drunken fun that she regrets the morning after. But for Belle, who is bisexual, the moment between them had the potential to be genuine, and so she feels betrayed by Jessie’s reaction.
The audience can immediately tell that Belle and Jessie have been friends for a long time even though very little about their history is told. They have a very playful and honest relationship, which is sold by the two leads’ natural chemistry and Kelley’s absorbing screenplay. Like any close friends, the girls tease each other endlessly and can talk about anything and everything. Belle is very open about her bisexuality, and some of the conversations she has with Jessie touch upon the stereotypes that bisexual people face. Jessie jokes that if Belle had a girlfriend, she’d see her as a lesbian, and if she had a boyfriend, she’d consider her to be straight. Although, in this case, it’s clearly a light-hearted joke between friends, it’s not uncommon to hear this kind of attitude expressed in real life. It reinforces the ignorant misconception that bisexuality is a ‘phase’ or simply a ‘stepping stone’ to coming out as gay, which can leave bisexual people doubting themselves and feeling isolated.
So far, the bond between Belle and Jessie has been characterised by their candour towards each other. Everything changes after the two sleep together, however, and cracks in their relationship begin to form as Belle struggles to get Jessie to be upfront with her. While previously their conversation about Belle’s bisexuality was tongue-in-cheek, now it has become more serious. Belle reminds Jessie that she has seen her being taken advantage of before, that somebody in the past treated her sexuality with frivolity like Jessie did and it hurt her deeply. Belle doesn’t feel like her bisexuality has been respected and says that none of this would have happened if she was a lesbian. Whether that’s true or not, it shows how belittling it feels for bisexual people when their sexuality is not taken seriously.
Few films feature canonically bisexual characters, and even fewer explicitly address the problems that bisexual people face. Treacle does both, and its portrayal of bisexuality is so fresh and compelling that a feature-length version of the film would certainly not go amiss. But it makes the most of the short time in which it tells its story. In just 16 minutes, Treacle carefully addresses the stereotypes that leave bisexual people feeling invalidated, and it gives the B in LGBTQ+ some much-needed visibility.
‘Treacle’ is being screened as part of the ‘Best Friends Forever’ short film collection at Underwire Film Festival on Thursday 19th September.