top of page
  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

Femme *****

Starring: George MacKay, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Aaron Heffernan, John McCrea 

Directors: Sam H. Freeman, Ng Choon Ping 

Country: UK


The erotic thriller is a genre that Queer Cinema has made plenty of for its own audience, but has very rarely tried to filter into the mainstream. But Femme, the new British thriller starring George MacKay (1917, Pride) and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Candyman, Misfits), looks poised to do exactly that. And rightly so, because this film is disarmingly good.

Jules (Stewart-Jarrett) is a drag artist and following a performance one night, he enters a convenience store in drag. There he encounters brutish thug Preston (MacKay) and his friends, who ridicule his appearance. Standing his ground, he is then subjected to a savage attack on the street, leaving him bleeding, naked and traumatised.

Several months later, Jules is in a gay sauna and, to his shock, encounters Preston again. Not recognising him out of drag, Preston invites his victim home with him. Though scared, Jules begins to see the perfect way to enact his revenge on the man who caused him so much pain, beginning a series of encounters that send the pair deeper down the rabbit hole of double-crossing, huge secrets and a whole bouquet of lies.

Stewart-Jarrett is compelling as Jules, whose ability to mould himself in moments of extreme peril is absolutely fascinating to watch. Though we see flashes of real vulnerability, Jules’ femininity is a source of strength, with his drag an assumption of battle armour. And as the film progresses, the character he presents to Preston is drag in itself, dressing like the jacked-up roadmen this hooligan mixes with.

George MacKay is nothing short of remarkable too. The actor’s transformation from mild-mannered everyman to tattooed and bloodthirsty yob is utterly convincing. With all the swagger, fury and bravado of a volatile London gangster, he is a wildly intense and deeply unsettling character, delivered in a disquieting magnetic performance. This is the kind of figure that we would all give a wide berth on the street, but whose aggressive masculinity is masochistically attractive.

What’s most interesting is that the film’s proud proclamation of its protagonist’s gender expression in the title is actually ironic; this film is a deep dive on the fragility of toxic masculinity instead. Preston is terrified of the revelation of his sexuality, so this hyper-masculine facade he’s created is simply smoke and mirrors to conceal the truth. The attack is an extreme manifestation of that, but we also see numerous instances where the sheer panic on MacKay’s face indicates just how entrenched in the closet this man is.

As the relationship deepens between the two, we see his mask slip, revealing the young man behind the hoodlum. But Jules’ thirst for revenge runs deeper than any feelings of pity. But it says a lot that by the final act, the positioning of the narrative has made us question whose side we’re actually on. This isn’t as simple as a hero pitted against a cartoon villain; both are complex and flawed characters, which makes this such a delicious conflict to witness.

Like Basic Instinct, Fatal Attraction or other giants of the genre, Femme builds eroticism into its threat. Sex and violence are interchangeable, fused and inexorably linked. And with almost all of it occurring at night, its neo-noir palate really helps to build its sometimes searing tension. There are moments of real pearl-clutching suspense, especially once we understand the veracity of Preston’s rage.

This is a perfect genre movie, delivering every aspect of an erotic thriller with aplomb. Dark, sumptuous, chilling and sexy, this is a delectable watch and the kind of movie that is so rarely made nowadays.


UK Release: 1st December 2023 in cinemas, released by Signature Entertainment


bottom of page