For me personally, the film had a lot of significance. Although I am straight myself, I can understand the sense of alienation felt by Pauline and Victoria. For example, when I came to the United States a few years back, I had difficulty socializing with Americans. Not only do I come from a different cultural background, I was a foreigner and from an ethnic minority community. While I personally am not homosexual, I can yet empathize with the lead characters in the film, when they were looked down upon by virtue of being “different”. During the first few scenes in the film, when the nature of their relationship is being revealed to the audience, it did not come across to me as something unusual or odd. I suppose my acclimatization to American culture over the last few years had made it easy. So, there is no radical change in my attitude toward the concept of homosexuality, as the movie progressed. On the other hand, my initial impressions of a few characters in the film did undergo a definite change. The primary among them is Pauline. When she was first introduced, I thought of her as an assertive, fun-loving, tom-boyish girl. But as the story unraveled, it became evident that she is mentally imbalanced and acted out in narcissistic outbursts. I also could not understand her inability to let go of her obsession with Victoria. The other character whose image changed over the course of the film is that of the Headmistress. I expected her to assume an authoritarian role as the head of an educational institution. To the contrary, she exhibited plenty of cordial enthusiasm while teaching her pupils and exemplary patience in leading with Pauline’s nervous breakdown. But, her inability to curb Pauline’s tragic end can be partially attributed to her professional incompetence. After all, why didn’t such a posh residential school as the one shown in the film, not have a psychological counselor, to tackle emotional issues of students?
I also have to admit that I am surprised with the reactions of other characters to the lesbian girls. Considering that most girls in the school as well as the parents and administrators were born and brought up in the United States, it is a little disappointing to find them acting anachronistically. As one girl points out in the movie, this is after all the new millennium and cultural values are supposed to have changed. But from the evidence available in the film, most characters seem to hold primitive notions about sexual orientation, which even comes across as incredulous. Given the fact that I came to the United States from South Korea only a few years ago, one can understand hostile reactions to homosexuality, had it come from someone like me. In fact, South Korean society is a little conservative, although things are beginning to change now. Even though I am straight myself, I would not have treated the lesbian couple disparagingly, had I been their peer. The director’s portrayal of rigid attitudes to sexual roles is somewhat unconvincing. As I stated before, I was not taken aback by the girls (Pauline and Victoria) indulging in homosexuality when I watched the movie. And I can also vouch for the fact that some of my friends in this class also have a liberal and progressive attitude towards sexual orientation and would not have subjected the lesbian girls to mental turmoil and abuse. Hence, the depiction of a sort of religious fundamentalist culture existing in a modern American residential school does not sound authentic. This lack of persuasiveness of the narrative is the film’s biggest drawback. And as for me, I feel proud of the fact that the love affair of the lesbian girls only elicited admiration and empathy from me. It probably speaks of how well I have evolved and embraced progressive American attitudes with regard to sexual freedom and expression. My reaction to homosexuality would have been different a few years back, when I just arrived in the United States. I am pleased that I could adapt to the new culture in a span of five years. Where this film succeeds is in its depiction of the heady thrill of youthful love, then of obsession and the devastation of loss and longing – this despite the overuse of such melodramatic tunes by just about every outspoken lesbian singer-songwriter in America and Europe. Finally, this isn’t just a lesbian film; it is also about passion and true love. This is one of the most enriching films I have ever seen and I am looking forward to seeing more such movies. Although, I am straight myself, I could really feel Paulie’s pain, to be denied by the person she loves (Victoria) when they both know that their love is a genuine one. It’s such a tragic love story, that every time I think about it, it makes me feel and think more about these characters and what they were going through.