Lianna (1983)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Erotic Drama, Feminist Film, Gay & Lesbian Films  |   Release Date - Jan 19, 1983 (USA - Unknown), Jan 19, 1983 (USA)  |   Run Time - 110 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Keith Phipps

As anyone who's read or seen The Celluloid Closet knows, gay themes and gay characters have a history as old as filmmaking itself. John Sayles's Lianna isn't the first to document the coming-out experience, but it's one of the first to take it as its sole subject. Perhaps just as important is the inclusion of an element that's now taken for granted in gay-themed films: joy. While Sayles doesn't shy away from the difficulties faced by his protagonist upon revealing her sexual orientation, he first concerns himself with the pleasure and emotional release of her awakening rather than treating her sexuality as the burden or pitiable curse of past films. Technically, Sayles had not quite worked out the creakiness of his first film, Return of the Seacaucus Seven, and the acting retains a similar unevenness, but his own novelistic evenhandedness and observational skills are already prominently on display here.