Movie review: Mayfly (Efímera) #Queerscreen

(courtesy IMDb)

In all of the many and ongoing battles that LGBTQI people have had to wage down the decades to get basic human equality, one phrase in particular has risen to the top, a rallying cry that rightly asserts the equivalency of queer love with its more widely-accepted heteronormative counterpart – “Love is love”.

So oft-repeated is it that it might have lost all meaning for many people, consigned to the realm of trite, well-meaning greeting card sentiment, but when you watch a beautifully honest and poignantly emotional film like Mayfly (Efímera), you powerfully realise all over again, the richness and truth of what is in effect a rallying cry.

In the world of Emilia (Danae Reynaud), it is less a rallying cry, however, and more a simply profound truth, with the Mexican high school senior, who has devoted her life to studying so she can gain admittance to a prestigious architectural school in Guadalajara, at ease with her sexuality, as are others around such as her loving widower dad Adrián (Hernán Mendoza).

She may be dedicated to getting one of only 10 spots at the school, her life a whirl of book borrowing from the library, tests and study sessions, but she still has a beating heart which becomes fully if quietly engaged at the funeral of classmate when she meets quiet but vivaciously committed to the idea of carpe diem and living in the now, Renata (Carla Adell).

In an atypical but charming meet-cute, Renata meets and comforts a distraught Emilia in the toilets at the funeral service, a simple question about she knew the mourned classmate morphing into burgers and what is in all but name a first date.

Rarely smiling, Emilia even reads her textbooks at the dinner table, something her father gently asks her not to do so he can actually spend some quality time with her, and yet suddenly, she is walking around with a goofy grin on her face, hardly daring to believe that her singular life of study and career preparation has now been changed forever.

The effect is a delight to watch as Emilia, in the throes of preparing for a rigorous entrance exam and an all-important interview, comes quietly and sweetly alive, her one-track life now enriched by movie nights with Renata and her older friend Carmén (Paloma Woolrich), walks and bike rides through the city in which she loves and tentative kissing that becomes so much more.

As couples go, Emilia and Renate as adorable as you can get, besotted with each other and bound by a real connection, birthed in the trauma of a funeral but able to stand the test of day-to-day life which for Emilia at least is unrecognisable from what it was before.

One of the things that makes their coming-of-age story such a pleasure to watch is that while they have their fair share of issues to navigate – Renata has a secret that is best left to the viewing to disclose but suffice to say, it’s a doozy – their relationship is strong enough to withstand pretty much anything that’s thrown at it.

(courtesy MUBI)

It is also presented as just the same as any other relationship, which is refreshing.

Even queer films can tend to shout from the rooftops about how special and yet the same as straight ones, gay relationships are, and that’s understandable given how hard many LGBTQI people have to fight for acceptance, but in Mayfly (Efímera), it’s just another relationship, remarkable only because of how devoted Emilia and Renata are to each other.

In a world blessedly free of any kind of homophobia, they hold hands at funerals, kiss in parks, share burgers in restaurants, fully accepted by friend and family alike; perhaps that is a little unrealistic but when, as a gay person, your reality is people constantly questioning your sexuality, having a little acceptance fantasy, especially when it’s so beautifully and touchingly realised, is a quiet piece of joy.

Another remarkable element of this transcendentally gorgeous film, which feels like love, happiness and giddy delight wrapped into a meaningfully warmhearted package of queer loveliness – if you don’t feel like the world is a better place after watching this film, even with its thin thread of dark but rewarding moments, then you might want to check your heart for the presence of concrete – is a magically real one with Emilia able to perceive, via a glow around the person, who is close to death.

She only discovers what that glow means when she is with Renata after glimpsing an unnerving number of people aglow in a way she had only previously witnessed her mother displaying right before she died when Emilia was a little girl.

It’s heartwrenching watching her come to the realisation of what this all means, a The Sixth Sense-lite ability that actually comes her relationship with Renata in some surprising and deeply loving ways, which set Mayfly (Efímera) apart from your usual run-of-the-mill queer coming of age films, the magically real aspect folded perfectly into the wider, far more ordinary world that Emilia and Renata inhabit.

At every stage of the film, we are rewarded with two quite different people coming to appreciate what is good about each other and why it matters in some very real and tangible ways why they need to work on that understanding which is going to be pivotal to where they go next together.

Mayfly (Efímera) is one of those films you don’t forget quickly, if at all; rich with sublimely deep characteristion, an appreciation for the preciousness of young love, and especially queer young love, and a world in which that love is free to be expressed, some existential bumps in the road notwithstanding, Luis Mariano García’s film (he wrote and directed it) is a good and precious thing, a reminder while life can be far from perfectly, it can also upliftingly wonderful, and that we should grab those moments when they come along and live only in the present for as long as we can.

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