Review: Below Her Mouth

The film’s pornographic premise turns into an all-out pornographic stunt from the very beginning.

Below Her Mouth
Photo: Gunpowder & Sky

In the wake of the releases of Blue Is the Warmest Color, Nymphomaniac, and Stranger by the Lake, film scholars have recently devoted a lot of attention to the liminal line dividing unapologetic sex scenes in the name of art from pornography masquerading as artistic cinema. With filmmaker April Mullen’s Below Her Mouth, however, there’s such a lack of intentional subtlety to the sexual explicitness that the question of categorization can’t even be posed. The film is an unquestionably pornographic fantasy barely trying to pass as something other than masturbation material.

Dallas (Erika Linder), an angelically butch construction worker, runs into Jasmine (Natalie Krill), a perennially dolled-up straight girl who’s properly engaged and fashionably employed at a lesbian club. The chance meeting is actually a re-encounter as Dallas turns out to be the roofer currently fixing Jasmine’s townhouse with her catcalling male buddies. Although Jasmine initially plays hard to get, they share a cigarette, exchange pithy one-liners, and end up making out. After that, Jasmine’s predictable, and predictably dreary, future with the most aseptically GQ of all fiancés begins to crumble.

Below Her Mouth’s pornographic premise turns into an all-out pornographic stunt from the very beginning—specifically in one of the first scenes where Jasmine lets go of her fuchsia satin robe to masturbate in her bathtub while Dallas hammers away on the roof of the house in a not-so-refined case of metaphorical fucking. From then on, every dramatic situation gives way to yet another steamy sex scene in which Mullen is much more invested in finding the most striking visual composition than articulating anything about character psychology or any narrative substance.

In the world of this film, all femme lesbian—or lesbian-curious—girls resemble Meghan Fox mid-orgasm, their impeccably styled hair bathed in blue light, while their butcher halves are also sterilized by the glossy glow of blondness and thinness. Razor-thin figments of pornographic imagination, these characters are flattened even further by the incessant score that comes in to replace and wash over any attempts at emotional articulation.

Below Her Mouth’s stiff acting and dialogue suggest a misguided Blue Is the Warmest Color influence reduced to the sexy aesthetics of lesbian sex but completely oblivious to that which actually animates the film’s impossibly beautiful, unbearably smooth, and perpetually horny bodies. Mullen ultimately achieves a kind of “glam porn” that hollows out the very bodies that are supposed to be excited, and exciting, turning them into dolls that are sex-obsessed but lack the actual intricacies of sexuality.

 Cast: Natalie Krill, Erika Linder, Sebastian Pigott and Mayko Nguyen  Director: April Mullen  Screenwriter: Stephanie Fabrizi  Distributor: Gunpowder & Sky  Running Time: 92 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2016  Buy: Video

Diego Semerene

Diego Semerene is an assistant professor of queer and transgender media at the University of Amsterdam.

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