Cicada review – slow-burn gay drama with beautiful scenes of New York

There’s a lot going on in this fervent and cathartically personal movie from writer-director Matt Fifer, in which he himself stars as Ben, a young gay guy in New York who begins a relationship with Sam, played by Sheldon D Brown. (Brown also contributed personal material to story development, evidently in the form of personal trauma.)

Sam has not come out to his work colleagues or his very religious father Francis (Michael Potts) and Ben has not yet been able to tell his mother Debbie (Sandra Bauleo) that he was abused as a child by his stepfather at their family home in Long Island, where the sound of the cicadas brings back complex, painful memories. So Ben’s suppression has resulted in anxiety and physical symptoms whose psychosomatic origin he has been unable to accept.

The gentle, realist tone of the film is contrasted by the broader comic identity of some of the smaller roles: Ben’s wacky therapist Sophie (Cobie Smulders), who has a dog called Klonopin, and the faintly predatory guy called Bo (David Burtka) who hangs around while Ben does his secondary painting and decorating job. Scott Adsit (from TV’s 30 Rock) plays Ben’s long-suffering doctor who has to convince him that his problems, though real enough, need a doctor of a different kind to be treated.

This is a watchable, fluent indie film with some lovely ambient cityscape shots of New York, though perhaps a little emotionally and dramatically unfocused. There are sympathetic, heartfelt performances from Fifer and Brown, and some funny material about the role played in their relationship by the children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

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