Centred around the blossoming relationship between two young men in New York City, Cicada offers a fresh perspective on falling in love with someone despite their trauma, and learning to accept your own.
The two leads shine in different ways, Sheldon D. Brown particularly landing some of the films most tender and challenging moments. Sam is confident and sure of himself, except that he remains in the closet. His struggles as both a gay and black man in 21 st century America feel authentic and realistic. The film actually straddles the line between fiction and documentary as Brown and his co-star Matt Fifer are actually reliving some of their real-life experiences.
Fifer both wrote and co-directed the film (Brown has an additional story credit with Kieran Mulcare co-directing). Coming from sets such as The Avengers, Fifer and Mulcare’s direction feels smaller, delicate and wistful. They use New York as the perfect backdrop for summer love, making the city as much a part of the film as the characters. It flits between feeling big, loud and exhausting, to seeming like the perfect private oasis for the couple to learn to open themselves up. Whilst it is the directorial debut of both men, it’s clear they have taken invaluable lessons from their careers in the industry.
There are occasional scenes that feel out of place. Whilst lightening the mood, Cobie Smulder’s therapist seemed almost too wacky to be true and felt like it was drawing away from the core of the film, but on the whole, the film balanced the tender and sweet with the silly. Scenes of the lovers running through their apartment block naked, playing with sparklers on the roof, they add to the richness of the film.
Cicada deals with a myriad of sensitive topics and doesn’t shy away from the trauma, but through careful handling of the subject, we’re allowed to focus on the perspective of both men, looking at how the trauma has, and continues to, affect them rather than using their experiences to further the plot.
More about Cicada at LFF2020: https://www.bfi.org.uk/london-film- festival/screenings/cicada