“Because through love, we feel the intensity of our connection to everything and everyone. And at the core we are all the same. We’re all one.”
When the rebellious daughter of a U.S. senator finds herself at a Catholic boarding school, a last stop before Military school, she doesn’t expect the experience to yield anything of value; certainly not love.
Cinematic depictions of illicit affairs between adults and minors are nothing new. I’m thinking Lolita. I’m thinking Election. I’m thinking Notes on a Scandal. In fact, like most things, once you start thinking about it, they seem to be everywhere. There seems to be a disproportionate number of films in this specific dramatic sub-genre of film.
So, I suppose it was only just a matter of time until there appeared a lesbian-themed treatment of the old teacher/student, adult/minor relationship drama. Enter Katherine Brooks’ slow burning and glossy Loving Annabelle.
Set at a Catholic boarding school, Loving Annabelle is the tale of a precarious young woman, Annabelle (Kelly) who finds herself uncontrollably attracted to her teacher, Simone (Gaidry), an older woman. The boarding school is a ripe environment for this type of torrid and illicit behavior – made all the more delicious by all of the Catholic taboos the women begin casting aside as they become closer.
That Brooks’ chose it for the setting of Loving Annabelle is no surprise. It’s a veritable home run. You can almost smell the hormones on the Spring breeze. Everything in the film drips budding sexuality. It’s what Susie Bright would call a “wet” film.
The director, who crafted the script over the course of several years while working on reality TV shows, sculpted the role of Annabelle specifically for Kelly, whom she’d seen in the audience of a play. Erin Kelly collaborated heavily with Brooks on the character of Annabelle and it shows. Kelly disappears into the role with an energy that embodies that moment in life when you are no longer a child but not yet completely an adult.
The relationship that develops between Annabelle and her teacher is constructed through vulnerability. The teacher, Simone, is shown to have had a previous lesbian relationship; one that ended with her girlfriend (shown only through photographs, and those are of the director herself) committing suicide. After her death, Simone struggles to connect with anyone. When we meet her, she is involved in a heterosexual, long term relationship but has been non-committal about taking that next step. She seems to be sleep walking through her life.
With the introduction of Annabelle, the precociously rebellious (and Buddhist) out lesbian, Simone is immediately challenged in every way – her faith, her authority, her sexuality. It’s this tension that builds the world in which the entire cast of characters resides, as fragile and unpredictable as it is.
What lets the director off the hook in terms of the whole sex with a minor thing is that it is Annabelle, not Simone, who is in relentless pursuit. It is Annabelle who will not be deterred.
In the end, it’s as if Simone has had all of her walls broken … no, scratch that … obliterated by the sheer lustful will of Annabelle. Any way you slice it, the subject matter still garners controversy and will ensure films like Loving Annabelle continue to be watching, discussed, and analysed. Think of it as a type of writer’s insurance policy.
If you’re looking to me to tell you it’s okay to admit watching Loving Annabelle is a guilty pleasure, that’s a service I can provide. I do so because, thanks to its heartfelt intent to tell both sides of their less-simple-than-it-looks attraction, Loving Annabelle makes sure there’s a price to be paid for your enjoyment.
Ahhhhh, delicious, inescapable Catholic guilt.
I’m not a fan of the ending, which I refuse to spoil here. I think Annabelle and Simone deserve a different fate. But, there’s a part of me willing to overlook and forgive, especially if Brooks ever decides to follow up with a sequel.
Featurette – Katherine Brooks:
Official Site: Loving Annabelle
Is Loving Annabelle rotten or fresh?
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