MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Director: Matthew Fifer
Starring: Matthew Fifer, Sheldon D. Brown, Sandra Bauleo
Runtime: 1 hr 36 mins
What It Is: Ben (Fifer) rejoins the hookup game when he becomes disenchanted with his relationship. When he comes upon Sam (Brown) and starts falling for him, he realizes he needs to confront the trauma that has held him back for years and has been making him physically ill. Sam in the meant time struggles with still being closeted and PTSD after a traumatic attack that nearly ended his life.
What We Think: It seems like we’ve gone a minute without a solid indie-rom. What we’ve got here is something that is much more.
Cicada hits you hard with its closeness to reality. You sense that there’s so much truth here and in actuality, there is as its story and character are in reference to Fifer’s and Brown’s real lives. It’s intimate in intimacy’s truest form–we see the best, worst, and most vulnerable moments from these characters, these people. It’s beautiful as much as it is tense, giving you a sense of unpredictability as it leads you through a brand-new romance with utmost observance and shamelessness. You see insecurity wax and wane, all the confusion that comes along with exploring another new person. It’s gritty, sometimes the tone shifts and transforms constantly, feeling more and more like a documentary with cinematic angles. The best thing I could compare this to was Chloe Zhao’s 2019 The Rider, which was also one of the best films of that year.
It brings back a tender and painful nostalgia of what it’s like navigating through hookups and then a serious relationship–how letting someone into your life also tends to bring up past traumas. As much as the two protagonists fall in love with each other, you fall in love with them as people by proxy of good writing and even better performances. Fifer’s directing, like Zhao or also the likes of Kelly Reichardt, is quite fly-on-the-wall, yet you get the sense it’s also a gentle, sympathetic perspective. The sweetness and humor play beautifully with the moments of feeling lost or scared. It’s an engaging experience that left me yearning for more.
Our Grade: A, Intimate, honest, and fascinating. It delivers a simple and strange story with great nuance and cares for its characters, perfectly energized and beautifully composed. Technically, it’s beautiful with subtly expressive camera work. On the other side of the coin, the use of music made scenes enchanting. This film forced me to lean closer in my seat because I was so captivated by these characters, especially when they’re just talking to each other. This movie is gorgeous and I’m excited to see Fifer’s and Brown’s works in the (hopefully near) future.