What would you do if you and your new girlfriend went to a casual, boozy lunch with your married friends and discovered what appeared to be a suicide note? Your friends - together for five years - are clear struggling with domestic issues, putting on a happy face in their Pinterest-inspired home amidst the leafy, sunny suburbs. Do you confront your friends? Or do you spend the afternoon trying to suss out who wrote the note - and why - over a lunch of vegan skewers, panang curry, and kale salad?
Well, obviously, this is a movie that needs to fill 80 minutes, so writer and star Brittani Nichols and director Carly Usdin choose the latter. The result is Suicide Kale, a conversational, dark comedy that manages to not only sustain its admittedly thin premise for the length of its runtime, but does so with genuinely engaging discussions about subjects worth talking about, including suicide, self-sabotage, what it means to be queer and in a relationship in 2017 – as well as laughs that will come from its audience’s perhaps awkward recognition of relatability.
Jasmine (Brittani Nichols) and Penn (Lindsay Hicks) have been dating for a month after meeting a Kanye West and Drake concert. Their friends and lunch hosts are Billie (Jasika Nicole) and Jordan (Brianna Baker). When their hosts are downstairs - arguing in hushed tones - Jazz and Penn sneak into the bedroom, discovering a note that reads as both a break-up and a suicide note.
They set about figuring out who it belongs to, and naturally, attempting to do so lead the new couple to face their own romantic quandaries about marriage, death, and happiness, subsequently making Billie and Jordan think they’re the ones whose coupling is on the rocks. Their early-relationship insecurities emerge, shining brightly as if made of neon.
Suicide Kale is a true work of queer collaboration with the four leads all providing additional improvisational dialogue to weave through Nichols’ charming screenplay. This is the debut directorial feature for Carly Usbin, with her wife Robin Roemer taking the reigns of cinematography and editing.
The film is clearly very low-budget (it was filmed in Brianna Baker’s house using natural light), but is bright and colourful. It liberally adopts the tone of older independent cinema - particularly those from the mumblecore movement from the mid-2000s - so don’t expect much in the way of big moments. It’s a low-key film built primarily around words and actors in a single location. It is particularly great to see a film with four key roles for gay women, most of whom are women of colour.
Suicide Kale won an audience award at San Francisco’s Outfest queer film festival for Best First US Dramatic Feature, and it’s not hard to see why. Its characters are the kind that are rarely seen on screen, interacting in ways that more mainstream (and, let’s face it, straight) filmmakers wouldn’t ever allow. Its central mystery is resolved in a way that makes sense for this little world they’ve made and there is even a blooper reel at the end.
Suicide Kale plays at the Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film Festival on Saturday 18 Feb (Sydney CBD) and Sunday 2 April (Parramatta). The Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film Festival runs from February 15 to March 2. For more information, tickets, and the full line up of films, you can check out their site here.
SBS will be streaming the 2017 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade live on Saturday, March 4 on SBS On Demand, and will then air our Mardi Gras special event - with commentary from our hosts, behind-the-scenes action and exclusive interviews - on Sunday March 5. In the meantime, you can keep up with all our Mardi Gras content here.
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