Lianna (Sayles, 1983)

It’s incredible that most John Sayles films, ranging from the depiction of our drug epidemic in Brother From Another Planet, border conflicts/racism in Lone Star, or homosexuality in Lianna, so consistently feel light years ahead of their time. Sayles is without a doubt the most important American independent filmmaker since Cassavetes, an ultimate humanist tackling crucial social issues while complicating regional borders and character types. Lianna, set amongst an East Coast college town, is a bold and honest film about Lesbianism experienced by a WASP professor’s wife and her strident attempts at independence in the face of social opposition. But Sayles doesn’t make Lianna (Linda Griffiths) a sympathy figure. His heroine exists in an educated world where the “don’t ask don’t tell” theory dominates. Even when Lianna comes out, she’s not physically alienated, just left alone. Lianna ends up being a thorough examination of loneliness and sadness, where one woman experiences a true awakening only to find out the world has already moved on. Lianna isn’t different because she’s a Lesbian, only because she thinks people see her differently, and her journey becomes one of trust in those that stick with her, not just of self discovery.

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