Reviews

TREACLE: This Mess We’re In

Ioanna dissects a short film by Rosie Westhoff.

We’re all messed up in some way or another—it’s human nature. Or maybe that’s what we tell ourselves from time to time to make everyday life easier. It’s less painful to believe that our lack of sanity or clarity is acceptable. It helps us forgive and forget; “it is what it is” we say and sigh.

Is this really it though? After all, the one on the receiving end of our mess might think otherwise. He or she might feel like we’re inconsiderate of their feelings.

Treacle (2019) – source: Rosie Westhoff

This is one of the primary issues Rosie Westhoff’s short film Treacle created with the cooperation of the Bisexual Resource Center, tackling it in under 20 minutes. We follow Belle (April Kelley, who’s also the writer) and Jessie (Ari Anderson) during a 24-hour road trip that Jessie was going to spend with her now ex-boyfriend Rob prior to their unexpected break up.

Even from this initial interaction, we see a very straightforward dynamic between the two friends: Belle will always be there for Jessie; she’s her protector. Belle is the one that picks Jessie up, albeit an hour late, and she is the one that takes care of Jessie’s hand-wound after the latter accidentally cuts it while drunk.

Like many other relationships, however, this friendship isn’t necessarily reciprocal. It isn’t that Jessie doesn’t love Belle; her love, however, is neither unconditional nor respectful. For instance, Jessie considers Belle’s bisexuality as a phase that will eventually lead her to take a stand in the straight/homosexual binary. Of course, Jessie’s assumption is problematic in two ways: firstly, her black and white mentality, which Belle clearly doesn’t abide by, indicates that she has no idea who her supposed best friend really is, and secondly it’s the foundation of the issues that arise later on.

Treacle (2019) – source: Rosie Westhoff

It is the combination of Jessie’s binary beliefs and her loneliness that brings about their drunken hook up. Inconsiderate of Belle’s feelings, and quite immersed in her own sadness for her relationship’s end, Jessie initiates a kiss, and eventually sneaks in Belle’s bed at night. What seemed like a great idea the night before, however, becomes a completely different experience by the light of day. Jessie doesn’t want to acknowledge the reality of her actions; she becomes patronizing once again even if she does so in silence. Nonetheless, Belle, unwilling to continue with her role as protector, decides to tip the balance of their dynamic and speaks her mind:

I bet if I was a lesbian, this wouldn’t have even happened. I bet if I was a dude, it’d be a non-fucking-issue. What if I had genuinely liked you Jess? How would any of this be fair on me? You’ve seen me go through this before.

Kelley’s choice of diction here is precise; it’s true to Belle’s bisexuality seeing that it showcases her everyday struggles.

Overall, Treacle is a short film with a fresh outlook that depends a lot on its female-led team: Rosie Westhoff’s vision fused with April Kelley’s words and the chemistry between Kelley and Ari Anderson comes together as a beautiful whole that deserves our attention.

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