Updated: May 6, 2021
Directed by Gabrielle Demers
REVIEW BY SARA MCDERMOTT, PRINDIE FOUNDER
Watching Gabrielle Demers’ Iris feels like stepping back inside a fierce high school crush—the kind where it felt like the world would end if you didn’t wind up together.
Unfortunately, that world-ending urgency takes on a much deeper significance when it comes to lead character Emanuelle, played by Marie Babbini. Her crush on a same-sex classmate, coupled with the fact that she herself is already a bullied outcast, lends a fearful concern to every moment. When the object of her adoration, the more popular Laura (Daphné Germain) finally seems to take her under her wing, we as viewers feel a mix of relief and elation that this is finally happening…Laura tends to the wound Emanuelle received, does her makeup, and moves close to her. Like Emanuelle, we also believe that Laura is giving her the green light, so we completely understand when Emanuelle finally goes to kiss Laura and bring all her frenzied fantasizing to its natural conclusion...
It’s here that Demers makes the artistic choice to leave the outcome of Emanuelle’s bravery up to audience interpretation. The camera cuts just as it seems Laura might pull sharply away, and we see Emanuelle on her stationary bike, frustrated, pedaling to nowhere. Her expression could either be the agony of having over-exerted herself through exercise, the agony of rejection, or possibly the agony of having a fantasy play out in a less-than-ideal way in reality. The stationary bike, throughout the film, serves as an excellent metaphor for Emanuelle’s pent-up frustration, and a yearning to move forward when it’s quite literally impossible.
It’s a powerful moment, but one that, after its initial jolt, leaves the viewer thinking more deeply about the whole situation. While on first viewing, it seems as though Emanuelle’s advances may have been spurned, we know that Laura’s interest was not all in Emanuelle’s mind. Our imaginations may conjure up scenarios of humiliation for poor Emanuelle, but we know, too, that there was more to it than that, and that other outcomes may have been possible.
From its opening title sequence through its ten minute run-time, Iris is beautifully shot and packed with quick glimpses that build a sense of closeness and intimacy. Moments like a flash of a bra strap, a sensory view of Laura pulling her long hair into a ponytail, and a pair of lips lend an eroticism to the film that carries on for its entirety. As with a high school crush, it’s easy to obsess over these small moments—even though they may amount to very little in the end. It’s like Emanuelle’s stationary bike, where everything and nothing is happening at the same time.
This thought is all the more significant when we realize that there are only two times when we see Emanuelle on a bike that’s actually in motion—first, when she is going to Laura’s house, moving towards the object of her desire, and second, when she is speeding away, presumably to figure out what to do now that her fantasy has been forever changed. In both cases, something has finally happened, and good or bad, Emanuelle has moved forward.