Program 27: Wild Nights With Emily
Directed by Madeleine Olnek
What do you know about Emily Dickinson? That she was a poet in the 1800s? That she wrote over 1800 poems, but only 11 were published in her lifetime? That her poems didn’t rhyme and that she was fond of dashes in her work, much to the dismay of then-editors?
In Wild Nights With Emily, writer Mabel Todd (Amy Seimetz, Alien: Covenant) lectures an audience of women, using her knowledge of Emily’s writing and their (non-existent) friendship to report that Emily also had a sexual relationship with her sister-inlaw, Susan, from the time they were teenagers until Emily died at the age of 56. The proof is in the poems, she says.
Molly Shannon (Saturday Night Live, 2016 ImageOut Opening Night Selection Other People) is compelling and fun to watch as Emily, moving easily between looking pinched and fed up (when dealing with the many men threatened by her brains) and joyously happy (whenever she’s with Susan). Susan Zeigler (Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same) is the perfect counterpoint as Susan, a woman so devoted to Emily that she marries her brother, just so they can spend unlimited amounts of time together without raising suspicion.
A little bit drama, a little bit vaudeville, a lot of comedy, director Madeleine Olnek (2011 ImageOut film Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same) plays fast and loose with history but uses Emily’s actual poems and letters to Susan to piece together the likelihood of their relationship. By the end of the film – and after listening to some of Dickinson’s poems that were written to Susan – the facts don’t seem to matter as much as the beauty of the love story
— Georgia Beers
AWARDS & ACCOLADES
- JURY AWARD, BEST ACTRESS (Molly Shannon) – FilmOut San Diego
- NOMINEE, GAMECHANGER AWARD – SXSW Film Festival
- NOMINEE, BEST INT’L FEATURE – Edinburgh Int’l Film Festival
- OFFICIAL SELECTION – Frameline San Francisco Int’l LGBTQ Film Festival
- OFFICIAL SELECTION – Seattle Int’l Film Festival
- OFFICIAL SELECTION – GAZE Dublin Int’l LGBT Film Festival