Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival: Directors Johnston and MacDonald Share Their Tru Love
We're so accustomed to younger women dating older men that we don't even flinch anymore, but when it's the other way around, we're so taken aback that we even come up with a nickname for women who date younger men: cougars.
An unexpected romance forms between Tru and Alice.
Even more out of the ordinary is a same-sex May/December coupling like the one depicted in Kate Johnston's directorial debut, Tru Love. Johnston's first feature film was co-written, co-directed, and co-produced with Shauna MacDonald (you may remember her from the Saw movies), who also stars as the title character, Tru.
Tru Love tells the story of Alice, a recent widow who develops a special relationship with her daughter Suzanne's friend. Despite Tru's aversion to commitment, she becomes involved with Alice, much to Suzanne's dismay.
We spoke with MacDonald and Johnston about the film, finding love in the most unexpected of places, and tango music.
See also: With Tom At The Farm, Xavier Dolan Grows Up
Cultist: Tell us what the film is about.
Kate Johnston: To put it simply, it is about love. It is about the intersection of three women's lives -- mother, daughter, and friend -- all isolated from themselves and each other, all needing to break free from [their] constraints and to learn to let go of fear in order to free and love themselves before they can [love] another. They are catalysts for change with each other.
What inspired you to take this project on?
KJ: I am a writer and an emerging filmmaker and create my own projects through my small production company TomGirl Films. It started out as a short film I wrote, which Shauna read. I met her and wanted her to play the lead, Tru. And after reading it - she loved it - she suggested the story and characters were too complex and rich to be wasted in a short film. She encouraged me to write it as a feature film, so I did, in less than a month.That first strong draft became the bones for the next draft, which Shauna then came on board for as a co-writer and later co-director.
Shauna MacDonald: Kate and I met, quite by accident, at a time when I was looking for a new challenge. Her short film idea was wonderful, but I felt the richness of the characters needed to be explored. Tru Love is a story about strong women and especially, an older woman. I love that. We seem to discard our elders in film and I think we should celebrate them. Harold and Maude has always been a film I admired because it took on a very challenging topic, of an older woman and a very young man falling in love - a combination also not very popular. It seems to be acceptable if it's an older man and a younger woman. I liked that the relationship between Tru and Alice was challenging to an audience; an older straight-identified woman and a lesbian. I had never seen that story before and so it became my passion to get it told.
There aren't many films that portray a May/December romance between two women. Why do you think that is?
KJ: I have no idea. There is A Perfect Ending by Nicole Conn, which was released during the pre-production and shooting phase of Tru Love, but that is a very different film. Most films feature older men with younger women, but very few the reverse, and certainly even less between women of different generations. It seemed fitting for Tru Love. Neither represented a threat to the other - they could be safe with each other - as the idea of them being together seemed unlikely. Little did they know!
SM: I think it's because the majority of filmmakers are men! I would postulate that men would rather watch an older man get a young babe. They don't care about old babes. And that's too bad, because old babes are still babes! The truth is, Alice and Tru could be any gender, but the development of a romance between them is more unexpected. The film for me was about a friendship that turns into love because both characters aren't "expecting" romance from the other and so are being completely open and honest with each other, being their true selves, and then they realize there could be more. I've had many women comment after watching the film, "I could totally see this happening to me! And I'm not gay!"