April Mullen is a little late for our phone call interview, but she’s got a good excuse. “Sorry, we were throwing someone through a table,” says the director, currently shooting a science-fiction series in Calgary.
It’s a world away, thematically, but that same passion is on full display in Mullen’s latest feature, Below Her Mouth, which screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and opens this weekend in Vancouver, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Worked from Stephanie Fabrizi’s screenplay, Below Her Mouth tells the story of Jasmine (Natalie Krill), a fashion editor planning her wedding who unexpectedly falls headlong into an affair with Dallas (Erika Linder) after a night out with a friend. Jasmine’s “mainstream” life is turned upside down by the sexual and emotional awakening that results.
“It’s about how if someone makes an impact on your life, then regardless of age or gender, you’ll go the distance,” says Mullen.
When she first read the script, Mullen said she immediately connected to “the frenetic energy and chemistry between the two women… that idea of human behaviour, what drives you crazy, when you can’t live without the other person, what does all that mean… It scared me and excited me and turned me on.”
She wears the director’s hat for this film but is no stranger in front of the camera, and often juggles both tasks, as she did in films such as 88 and Dead Before Dawn.
The Niagara Falls native assembled a virtually all-female crew for the shoot, all the better to make her actresses more comfortable during the many intimate scenes in the film. “The most important thing was to be able to allow them to forget who they were... to let them be free, be truthful, be raw and be bold,” she says.
This is the first feature film for Swedish model Erika Linder, who made headlines a few years back for being the first female to book jobs for men’s modeling campaigns. She caused a sensation, then moved on, and landed on Mullen’s set. “She has incredible instincts and impulses and unique mannerisms,” Mullen says. “So I just wanted to keep her natural, help her through some of the angles and make sure her true self was shining through Dallas, who is regarded as genderless. It was wonderful working with her.”
Considering the political climate south of the border and the resultant ground-swelling of vocal support for women’s issues, it’s quite a time to be releasing a film with LGBTQ protagonists.
“I think it’s a gift to live in Canada and to be able to create freely, to create this love-is-love message,” Mullen says.
Below Her Mouth open Friday at International Village.