(Sam H. Freeman & Ng Choon Ping, UK, 2023)

BY LAURA KERN | March 29, 2024

Done right, a movie can conjure feelings you typically wouldn’t have—or, in the case of many dark genre works, ones you absolutely don’t want. The powerhouse Femme brings out the whole artillery of emotions. At first, it offers exhilaration as we are introduced to Jules (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) onstage in glorious full-drag attire as “Aphrodite.” His performance is intoxicating. But after the show, at a shop where he’s buying cigarettes, a group of aggressive dudes walk in, clearly looking for trouble. Feelings of exaltation turn to fear and dread as Jules ill-advisedly mouths off to the apparent leader—Jules caught the guy checking him out earlier and calls him on it—which results in a brutal beating, leaving Jules in a demoralized ball on the side of the street, naked and bloodied.

After three months pass, Jules remains traumatized, hiding away from the world in video games. On his first excursion out, to the gay sauna, he (surprise!—or not) spots his heavily tattooed attacker (George MacKay) acting belligerently toward another man (no surprise whatsoever). Jules follows him outside and accompanies him home, with visions of vengeance swirling in his head. This neo-noir, portraying a shadowy, often neon-lit London, looks to be announcing itself as a revenge thriller, to the expectant audience’s delight.

Femme now activates feelings of agonizing anxiety for our delicate but determined protagonist, as a game of cat and mouse commences (or just cat, really, for Preston, as we find out the young thug is called, has no idea that he’s the target of a master payback plan). It is also Preston who acts like a caged predatory animal—the classic angry, closeted male as homophobe.

But as time goes on in this ticking time bomb of a movie, captivating in its every second, we find ourselves embroiled in much more than a straightforward tale of retribution. As Jules moves closer to realizing his plan of publicly outing Preston, some genuine intimacy begins developing between the two, their opposing worlds impossibly intersecting. And here is where our conflicted feelings go haywire. This is a brutal revenge thriller at heart, and the asshole deserves whatever’s coming to him! Or does he? Everyone can be vulnerable and is worthy of a chance at redemption and love! But even this abusive piece of shit? Jules, too, feels mightily conflicted.

Adding a romantic thread to a wildly intense movie about identity and toxic masculinity could have been disastrously heavy-handed, or even offensive to its wronged character, but writer/directors Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping walk the tenuous line unwaveringly in their tremendous feature debut (based on their 2021 short, featuring different actors). And the staggering performances they evoke from their two leads only make the film shine brighter. Stewart-Jarrett and MacKay’s chemistry is electric, whether violently antagonistic, passionately sexual, or anywhere in between. Stewart-Jarrett, in particular, stands out because much of the weight of carrying the film rests on him. The camera places an up-close-and-personal focus on Jules, a gentle soul with doses of self-loathing and confusion, as he attempts to overcome trauma and reconnect with his life and friends. The remarkable dexterity with which the movie toys with expectations, executes dramatic role reversals, and drags viewers through the emotional wringer, leaving them with thoughts and questions not easily unpacked, helps Femme to find its place among the best of the newly classified breed of modern anti-revenge films. 🩸


is a writer, editor, and horror programmer based in New York. She is the editor of Bloodvine and her writing has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Film Comment, and Rolling Stone.

X: @killerkern

How to see Femme

The film is playing in NYC, L.A., and Chicago theaters now and expands nationwide on April 4.
The first edition of a reanimated column rounds up the best in this year’s horror, sci-fi, thrillers, and bloody action.

Years ago, on Film Comment’s website, I introduced a column called Streaming Pile...

BY LAURA KERN  |  December 22, 2023

(Thomas Cailley, France/Belgium, 2023)

With their numbing sameness, dystopian or end-of-world movie scenarios tend to grow tiresome, and even intolerable now that we have a four-year reference point for how true to life that stasis can be.

BY LAURA KERN  |  March 15, 2024

The Harbinger, the latest of Andy Mitton’s exquisitely heady—and horrifying—otherworldly explorations, is the only quarantine film we need.

High-concept, no-frills horror is writer-director-editor-composer Andy Mitton’s modus operandi. While his four features (the first two co-directed with Jesse Holland) address vaster subjects...

BY LAURA KERN  |  December 5, 2022



(Victor Halperin, USA, 1933)

This pre-Code offering packs a lot of story into its typically brisk running time, with several plot threads weaving together a (not always successful) tapestry of spooky and criminal doings.


BY  ANN OLSSON  |  Month 00, 2021


The Keep

(Michael Mann, USA, 1983)

In what could be the fastest-resulting rape revenge movie, a drunken lout brutally forces himself on Ida, the young woman who doesn't return his affections, during a party over Labor Day.


BY  LAURA KERN  |  Month 00, 2021


We Need To Do Something

(Sean King O'Grady, USA, 2021)

Beast is a lot of movies in one package - fractured fairy tale, belated-coming-of-age story, psychological drama, regional horror film - but above all it's a calling card for its leading lady, Jessie Buckley.


BY  LAURA KERN  |  Month 00, 2021