Contrast Review: So Pretty
Making queer space for beauty and simplicity in Rovinelli’s film
By Nick Yeager,
11:00AM, Mon. Jul. 22, 2019
Four roommates, in a small New York apartment, are crowded around the kitchen table. They visit with friends, lovers, and one’s mother. Voices intersect and viewers can make out bits of dialogue, but the substance of the interactions falls away.
The point is to appreciate this kitchen as a communal space as these welcoming people exchange words in the sweet glow of morning.
This is perhaps the most striking scene in Jessie Jeffrey Dunn Rovinelli’s So Pretty, a feature film about queer space-making in 2018, which made its Texas premiere Sunday at the second annual Contrast Film Festival. Rovinelli – who plays Tonia in the film alongside Thomas Love (Franz), Edem Dela-Seshie (Paul), Rachika Samarth (Erika), and Phoebe DeGroot (Helmut) – also wrote the screenplay and edited So Pretty.
It’s the simplicity of So Pretty that makes it special. In a world plagued with hatred and violence, four femme characters have carved out a mini-utopia for themselves, defined by tenderness within the film’s minimalist setting. Many scenes begin or end with slow pans around the apartment, focusing on the white walls, curtains, and light, flowery decorations. The message is clear: Life is simple and pretty here, and to live this way is a right just like any other.
Based on a book, So Schön by Ronald M. Schernikau or “so pretty” in German, the film engages similar themes of how to protect the warm and affectionate queer spaces under threat. Though So Pretty ends on the fallout of a protest at Trump Tower, which puts pressure on the four characters’ relationships, the President’s name is never mentioned.
Like a love letter to our queer and trans communities, Tonia, Franz, Paul, Erika, and Helmut sustain themselves in their little havens, preserving lives in which everything is beautiful. It’s a reminder that cruel ugliness has no place here.