April is a feast for lovers of independent and foreign film, with big releases coming from French, Swiss and Estonian directors. It also appears to be a popular month for love triangles, which seems well-suited to the beginning of a more pleasurable time of year.
While theatergoers will find themselves lulled by dreamy, atmospheric romances, TV viewers are in for a different, more edge-of-your-seat experience. This month’s stress-inducing small screen selections include the return of “The Flight Attendant” and “Russian Doll,” as well as a new limited series about the horrific side of motherhood.
With April releases happening later in the month, it’s a good time to catch up on the series in the ICYMI section, which include the enjoyably cynical series “Severance.”
'The Girl and the Spider'
The new film from filmmaking brother duo Ramon and Silvan Zürcher centers around two former roommates, Mara (Henriette Confurius) and Lisa (Liliane Amuat), who reside in a Berlin apartment complex teeming with eccentric, wispy women. As the two split up their possessions and say their goodbyes — despite Lisa moving into another unit in the building — their erotically charged dynamic begins to permeate the building and its residents.
The German-language feature is the second film in the Zürcher brothers’ trilogy on human togetherness, a follow up to 2013’s “The Strange Little Cat,” another mysterious and atmospheric chamber drama revolving around a Berlin apartment. “The Girl and the Spider” won the Best Director prize at the 2021 Berlin Film Festival.
“The Girl and the Spider” opens in U.S. theaters April 8.
'Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore'
“Harry Potter” fans may finally be getting the gay onscreen romance they’ve been waiting 15 years for. In the trailer for “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore,” the third installment in the spinoff franchise, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) appears to confess his love for Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen). Whether or not the film will build on that moment remains unclear. But it seems to at least confirm, for the first time, J. K. Rowling’s 2007 revelation that the Hogwarts headmaster is gay.
“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” opens in U.S. theaters April 15.
'Paris, 13th District'
This new film from French director Jacques Audiard revolves around a digital-age-inflected love quadrangle among three women and a man. The four Parisians — Émilie (Lucie Zhang), Nora (Noémie Merlant), Amber (Jehnny Beth) and Camille (Makita Samba) — navigate being friends and lovers in the age of limitless options.
“Paris, 13th District” reunites “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” star Merlant and filmmaker Celine Sciamma, who co-wrote the film with Audiard and screenwriter Léa Mysius. The film is adapted from the graphic short story collection “Killing and Dying,” by American cartoonist Adrian Tomine, who also designed the film’s poster.
“Paris, 13th District” debuts in U.S. theaters and on-demand April 15.
'We’re All Going to the World’s Fair'
The Reddit-originated genre “creepypasta,” essentially a short horror story that circulates online via copy and paste, is the inspiration for transgender, nonbinary director Jane Schoenbrun’s feature debut. The coming-of-age horror stars Anna Cobb as Casey, who gets swept up in a creepypasta-style challenge that involves sharing a video of herself repeating the phrase “I want to go to the World’s Fair.” (Like Bloody Mary for the internet age.) In doing so, the self-conscious young teen gambles on the game’s rumored consequences for the reward of finding community online.
In the director’s statement, Schoenbrun relates their own experiences as a transgender teen to Casey’s immersion into the world, and horror, of the game: “What I did know growing up was a constant feeling of unreality, one cut with an ambient sense of shame, self-loathing, and anger. … It took me decades to unravel these feelings, and to understand them for what they were — very common symptoms of dysphoria.”
“We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” opens in U.S. theaters April 15.
Three years after “Russian Doll” premiered, Natasha Lyonne — perhaps best known for playing iconic lesbian characters in “But I’m a Cheerleader” and “Orange Is the New Black” — returns for a new chapter of the surreal dark comedy series. In season one, Nadia (Lyonne) is trapped in a gruesome “Groundhog Day” scenario that forces her to relive her untimely death at her 36th birthday party. After escaping that time loop, Nadia now finds herself contending with a portal, via the New York subway system, in season two.
The series is co-created by Lyonne, Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland, who is joined on set by her actor-wife Rebecca Henderson. Henderson, who plays Nadia’s best friend, Lizzi, recently starred as the hilarious, tough-love AA sponsor in “Single Drunk Female.”
“Russian Doll” season two premieres on Netflix April 20.
'The Flight Attendant'
In season one of this thriller series, Cassie Bowden (Kaley Cuoco) is pulled into the world of international spying when she wakes up next to a dead man, unable to recall the details of the alcohol-fueled night. Now sober, living in L.A., and moonlighting as a CIA asset, Cassie is doing her best to stay on the straight and narrow. But she certainly doesn’t have the best of luck when it comes to that.
“Dear White People” actor Griffin Matthews reprises his role as Shane, a quick-witted flight attendant who is the perfect counterpoint to reforming party girl Cassie. Matthews was a fan favorite of season one — high praise when you’re working alongside funny ladies like Rosie Perez — for his ability to elevate the role of the gay best friend beyond its usual cliched trappings.
“The Flight Attendant” season two premieres on HBO Max April 21.
In addition to “Paris, 13th District,” queer filmmaker Celine Sciamma has another big film release slated for April. Her surrealist feature about mother-daughter dynamics, “Petite Maman,” is finally coming to theaters after premiering at the 2021 Berlin Film Festival. Twin sisters Joséphine Sanz and Gabrielle Sanz play a mother and daughter who meet in a time-travel scenario, when they’re both 8 years old. Through their pure girlish friendship, Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) gains new understanding about her mother, Marion — played by Gabrielle Sanz as a child and Nina Meurisse as an adult.
The 72-minute film is both incisive and bewildering. It’s Sciamma’s first film since the internationally acclaimed “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” revealing yet another facet to the director who has continued to reinvent herself since winning over fans with early queer cult classics “Tomboy” and “Water Lilies.”
“Petite Maman” opens in U.S. theaters April 22.
This British dark comedy series is a post-Jordan Peele take on the horrors of modern motherhood, through a queer, female-centric lens. It seems like everyone around Natasha (Michelle De Swarte) wants to have a baby — other than her. Her two best friends will both soon have infants and her sister is desperately trying to navigate the adoption process with her partner. Just when she’s starting to feel really alone, the universe drops an unwanted surprise right into her lap: a demonic infant with a flair for bizarre, sudden deaths.
The show, which deals with how women of different eras, races and sexualities relate to motherhood, comes from female creators and producers Siân Robins-Grace, Lucy Gaymer and independent studio Sister (“Chernobyl”). Its distinctly British humor pairs well with its social and political messaging, keeping the metaphor-laden horror from being too heavy handed. And while it’s reminiscent of films like “The Omen” and “Get Out,” it also feels like a lesbian-centric take on motherhood comedies like “Workin’ Moms” and “The Letdown.”
“The Baby” season one premieres on HBO Max April 24.
The stars of the award-winning series “Gentleman Jack” are back to break the fourth wall in season two of the sapphic period piece. The show created by Sally Wainwright closely follows the diaries of Anne Lister, an enterprising member of the English rural gentry who lived during the height of the industrial revolution. The debut season ended with the real-life marriage between Lister (Suranne Jones) and heiress Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle). And now the two women are setting up as newlyweds at the Lister ancestral home of Shibden Hall, near Halifax. Gemma Whelan, Gemma Jones and Timothy West reprise their roles as members of the Lister family, who now find themselves the topic of gossip for welcoming the unconventional couple.
“Gentleman Jack” season two premieres on HBO Max April 25.
'Anaïs in Love'
The flighty, titular protagonist of “Anaïs in Love” won’t settle for anything other than a great romance. While looking for someone who can keep her interested, Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier) meets Daniel (Denis Podalydès), someone who definitely can’t. But during the tepid affair, Anaïs falls for Daniel’s partner, Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), a famous writer whom Daniel unwisely describes to Anaïs in glowing detail. The French-language production is written and directed by Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet, who delivers an easy-watching film that successfully banks on the electric chemistry of her ravishing female stars.
“Anaïs in Love” opens in U.S. theaters April 29.
The Cold War-era film “Firebird” centers on a forbidden romance at an air force base in 1970s Soviet-occupied Estonia. When a dashing fighter pilot, Roman (Oleg Zagorondnii), is stationed on the base, he draws the eye of a Russian private, Sergey (Tom Prior). To carry out the love affair, the two have to evade the watchful gaze of the KGB, as well as Sergey’s best friend, Luisa (Diana Pozharskaya), who harbors romantic feelings for both of the men. Like its stars, the film, which is based on Sergey Fetisov’s memoir, “The Story of Roman,” is an aesthetic treat with a familiarly tragic arc. It’s the debut feature from Estonian director Peeter Rebane, which comes to the U.S. after premiering at the BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival last year.
“Firebird” debuts in U.S. theaters and on-demand April 29.
Rowan Blanchard (“Snowpiercer”) stars in the new queer high school rom-com “Crush,” about a teen with artistic and romantic aspirations. Paige (Blanchard) predictably has her sights set on the most beautiful girl in school, until someone with a little more edge catches her eye. The upbeat film has more in common with an early aughts rom-com — think “She’s All That” — than the edgier YA fare of recent years. At Paige’s high school, it’s normal to be out as queer and, in fact, it feels like most people are. (Aasif Mandvi, who plays the high school track coach, quips at one point that 60% of the team is queer.) So rather than social isolation and painful crushes on straight classmates, Paige and her friends have to contend with their relative popularity and what they’ll do when they graduate. There’s even the familiar figure of the flawed but doting single parent, in this case played by the always hilarious Megan Mullally.
“Crush” premieres on Hulu April 29.
In case you missed it…
The premise of “Severance,” one of the latest shows in Apple’s growing catalog of streaming hits, is both stunningly cynical and laugh-out-loud relatable. In the near future, some people willingly take jobs that require their work selves to be surgically separated, or severed, from the rest of them — meaning, they have no memory of what they do during their 9-to-5s. They may be working for an evil corporation, but, still, it has its appeal.
Alongside a cast led by Adam Scott and Patricia Arquette, John Turturro and Christopher Walken play severed employees who strike up a cross-department romance. Unfortunately, given the strict workplace environment and the fact that their relationship ceases to exist outside of work, the odds are really stacked against the two later-in-life lovebirds.
“Severance” season one is available on Apple TV+.
'Queer Eye: Germany'
There’s a new Fab Five — or Fab Fünf — sprinkling self-love dust and making the world a better place, one life reset at a time. In “Queer Eye: Germany,” a group of five self-help gurus, modeled after their American counterparts, put their lifestyle expertise to use helping people from across the country. Leni Bolt, Jan-Henrik Scheper-Stuke, Ayan Yuruk, David Jakobs and Aljosa Muttardi tackle nominees’ issues with self-esteem, fashion, design, beauty and health. The new series brings a decidedly German flair, complete with soccer obsession and sausage, to Netflix’s highly successful rebooted “Queer Eye” franchise.
“Queer Eye: Germany” season one is available on Netflix.
'Life & Beth'
Amy Schumer returns as a small-screen lead in “Life & Beth,” a series inspired by her adolescence and love story with now husband Chris Fischer. In it, she plays Beth, a woman who is jolted out of ambivalence — about her job as a wine sales rep and her relationship with her boyfriend, Matt (Kevin Kane) — by her mother’s sudden death.
The show feels reminiscent, in many ways, of the recent instant classic “Somebody Somewhere,” starring Schumer’s friend and frequent collaborator Bridgette Everett. Both comedians break away from their signature raunchiness to deliver heartfelt portrayals about life and loss. Alongside them are comedians from the late night New York comedy and drag scene, like Murray Hill, who stars in both series, and Yamaneika Saunders, who plays Beth’s childhood friend in Schumer’s series.
“Life & Beth” season one is available on Hulu.