“You’re back on the dick,” a friend of Ben’s shrewdly observes minutes into their coffee date. She’s not wrong. A consummate casual dater, Ben (Matt Fifer) has been impressively making his way around the tristate area, the opening scenes of Cicada an evocative tangle of limbs, moans, and imminent seductions. This is no mere foray into hedonism: trying to lose himself in a litany of hookups and one-night stands, Ben’s past traumas lie just under the surface, threatening to rear their heads at a moment’s notice. But when Ben meets the handsome, quietly confident Sam (Sheldon D. Brown) while browsing at a bookstore, their immediate emotional connection makes these demons much harder to ignore.

Restrained and straightforwardly linear, Cicada does not break any new ground, but it is perhaps this that makes the film special, the very everyday-ness of Ben and Sam’s unfolding relationship a quiet triumph. Handheld cameras and mumblecore dialogue craft an intimate atmosphere that lends real weight to Ben and Sam’s connection and their growing vulnerability, the script – co-written by Fifer and Brown – adeptly balancing the moments of pain and joy that such vulnerability brings. Fifer and Brown’s naturalistic performances are rounded out by comedic turns by supporting members, Cobie Smulders in particular shining as an embarrassingly earnest therapist (“we don’t wank, we listen,” she assures a thoroughly bemused Ben).

Cicada was written out of Matt Fifer’s personal experience, and his intrinsic understanding of queer identity and trauma is writ large throughout, every scene rich in introspection and catharsis. While not as inventive or innovative as other semi-autobiographical narratives – Shia LaBeouf’s Honey Boy coming immediately to mind – its understated approach nevertheless belies a work of significant self-compassion. There is still beauty to be found, Cicada shows us, in the ache of the everyday.

RATING: 4/5


INFORMATION:

CAST: Matt Fifer, Sheldon D. Brown, Cobie Smulders, David Burtka

DIRECTORS: Matt Fifer, Kieran Mulcare

WRITERS: Matt Fifer, Sheldon D. Brown

SYNOPSIS: Two queer men strike up a tentative relationship in contemporary New York, each struggling with past traumas in their attempts to be entirely open.

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