Director: Philippe Audi-Dor
Starring: Hugo Bolton, Elly Condron, Simon Haycock
Running Time: 72 minutes
Following through with the tagline “love stings,” WASP is an exploration of an individuals pain, how the express it and what their reaction is. Whether it is the personal pain of self-discovery or the pain birthed by heartbreak, WASP is clearly invested in examining this idea through a small, self-contained group of individuals.
The individuals in question are James (Hugo Bolton) and Olivier (Simon Haycock), a gay couple who take a romantic getaway in the South of France for some alone time. However, said alone time is interrupted by Caroline (Elly Condron) a friend of James who was recently dumped by her long-term boyfriend. What starts as an innocent vacation of drinking, sight-seeing and games, quickly dives into a test of friendships, relationships and their own identities as Caroline and Olivier get closer and closer.
A strong examination of self-identity, WASP itself ends up feeling confused itself. It clearly has a lot to say about self-discovery and the LGBT social issues, but muddles these concepts behind cinematic clichés. At times the film feels to abstract, relying on rapidly-cut montages and dance sequences designed to mention the fractured nature of Caroline and Olivier; but other times the film falls into rom-com tropes. None of this is bad per say, but this tonal confusion feels overbearing thanks to the brisk run time.
Which is a shame because the film still is very captivating. While its small budget is always present (the film has no extras or background characters at all), it does include a variety of impressive settings, displaying the beauty of southern France. For every other shot the film is relegated to one summer home, where the entirety of the story takes place.
A lot has already been said about Elly Condron’s fragile performance as Caroline, but to me the real standout is Simon Haycock. At first the film seems to more interested in James and Caroline, but Haycock’s Olivier is quickly revealed to be the dominant presence in the film. His questioning of sexuality, and the entrapment between his love for James and the vapid curiosity for Caroline is the draw of the film. He might seem to be a rather stoic character, but the tiny details and changes really helps elevate him. This is only furthered by the voyeuristic cinematography by director Philippe Audi-Dor, which capture both James and Caroline with such perverse glee that it becomes easier to fall into Olivier’s internal struggle.
About half way into the film, there is one scene where Olivier and James are being questioned by Caroline about their relationship. James is very open about his love for men, but Olivier hints at a more complex situation involving his past with women. When questioned about when they came out, both of their answers involve University, a common period of self-discovery. Yet, instead of delving further into the social repercussions of their sexuality, the film swiftly transitions into another merry drinking game filled with laughter and sultry looks from Caroline.
This scene completely represents WASP, an infuriatingly interesting movie that never delves deep enough into its own material. A movie that is visually interesting and well-performed, but steps away from the issues that could have elevated the film from a good film to an important one.
WASP is available now on DVD, VOD and streaming services.