boygenius’ the film begins with a triptych, displaying three dimly-lit bedrooms. A silhouette walks through each frame. The three stars of the film appear, one in each frame, settling themselves into their respective beds. Rain sounds play softly; Lucy Dacus’ honey-sweet voice hums the tune of the opening track of boygenius’ debut studio album, the record. Despite residing each in their own separate frame, the women’s connection only becomes stronger throughout the film’s 14 minutes.
boygenius is the lovechild of indie darlings and best friends Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus, each of whom are successful solo artists in their own right and who formed this group simply because they simply love making music together. the record is a delightful indie rock collection that feels like a roller coaster ride through the full spectrum of human emotions. And along with the album release, boygenius has given its a short film called – what else? – the film. Directed by sapphic heartthrob Kristen Stewart, the film weaves together three intersecting stories, each set to a specific song from the album. Each story focuses on a different member of the band, but all three artists play a role in each story, and the stories connect through shared motifs. the record is ultimately an ode to the bond between the three band members, and the film is a a perfect visual encapsulation of this.
In the first third of the film, set to the song “$20,” we are transported to Julien Baker’s childhood home, where her antagonistic, cigarette-smoking mother is pushing her to her limit. The film is caked in nostalgia from the get-go, and we have Stewart’s thoughtful directorial eye to thank for this; much of the film has the familiar vintage graininess of a home video. Baker, Bridgers, and Dacus, who play their adult selves and are also accompanied by preteen lookalikes, work on a beat-up Chevy truck. As the story progresses, the three begin to rebel against the confines of the suburban landscape in which they’re trapped. They wreak havoc in the backyard by running, kicking, and setting fires, take blood oaths, and speed away in the Chevy.
In the middle third of the film, a deadpan Bridgers sings “Emily, I’m Sorry.” She makes unflinching eye contact with the camera while a monster truck rally causes destruction behind her. The trucks jump a pile of rubble, in the middle of which sits the scraps of the Chevy, a racecar bed, and other items plucked from the previous vignette. (The rubble also includes paint-splattered furniture, foreshadowing Dacus’ “True Blue.”) As the end of the track approaches, Phoebe repeats the lyrics “Emily, I’m sorry,” and douses the rubble in gasoline. Baker and Dacus join in, Dacus hands Bridgers a match and Baker lights it, and fire unites the women once again, the three artists empowering each other to burn the relics of some of their most painful experiences. There’s a profound sense of vulnerability in the act of displaying their baggage like this, just as there is power in destroying it together.
The final third of the film centers around Lucy Dacus, set to “True Blue.” This section opens with a close up of a tattoo on Lucy’s arm: the three of cups, which represents friendship (Baker and Bridgers have the same tattoo). Dacus wanders through an abandoned home, its walls a dull white and its floors barren save for a few pieces of furniture. Peering out the window, Dacus spots a piece of blue fabric tangled in a tree. She collects the fabric and spreads it across the floor of the house. Inspired, she tosses the furniture and covering the walls of the home in blue paint. Again, Baker and Bridgers join in – the three women fill the room with blue while sharing knowing gazes and tender kisses.
Ultimately, this is a love story, one that showcases the healing power of queer connection. In “True Blue,” Dacus sings, “It feels good to be known so well / I can’t hide from you like I hide from myself.” This song conjures in me a very specific kind of nostalgia, one connected to my adolescent years in church. I was always taught that perfect love comes from God and that God’s love was built on a foundation of being truly known by Him. After all, the idea that God sees and knows everything about me was drilled into me from my earliest years. At the same time, I remember carrying the seeds of doubt from a young age: “Sure, God knows how many hairs are on my head and hears my every thought, but how could He really know me?” It’s hard to conceptualize that someone you’ve never seen or spoken to could know you even better than you know yourself.
Though I may not have ever felt the kind of connection with God that I expected to, I do know love like the kind that Dacus is singing about – the kind of love that lies at the center of the film. In the film, boygenius displays the kind of bond that is familiar to so many queer folks. It’s a bond that transcends the boundaries of heteronormative structures of friendship, and demands vulnerability. My friendships with other queer folks are some of my strongest friendships, and they are certainly the friendships in which I feel the most seen. I watched the film for the first time while sitting cross-legged on the couch next to my best friend, making sure to debrief afterwards so we can share our favorite gut-punch lyrics with each other. My best friend and I grew up in the church together, and discovered we were queer around the same time.
Coming of age as a queer person in a stifling environment like evangelical Christianity left me with a heavy burden of shame to unpack as an adult. Now, in my mid-twenties, I feel more comfortable with myself than I ever have been – thanks in large part to my queer friends, who have grieved, grown, and healed alongside me. Queer folks are often conditioned to conceal parts of themselves, to whittle themselves down to something palatable. There’s something so painstakingly vulnerable about allowing someone to really know you, especially after years of learning to keep your truest self hidden. the film paints a painfully accurate picture of the kind of vulnerability that true love demands and for which queer connection often makes space.
There’s a distinct element of intimacy in the way Stewart portrays the connection between the women of boygenius. In “True Blue,” the culmination of the three stories results in tender makeouts between Baker, Bridgers, and Dacus. In the closing scene of the film, the three share a sweet moment as they lay in bed, holding each other and looking into each other’s eyes. In the final shot, they acknowledge the camera with a giggle, as if we’ve intruded on a private moment. These moments of intimate physicality emphasize the way that queer friendship can often blur the lines between romantic and platonic connection. Friendship, like romance, requires true vulnerability.
There’s a reason that boygenius has amassed a large, dedicated queer following: their work has always explored sexuality, love, and human connection through a queer lens. the film is no different; through its three interconnected stories, with Kristen Stewart at the helm, boygenius offers a beautiful snapshot of the intimacy of queer connection, honoring queer friendship as the highest form of love. Queer friendship means laying it all out on the line, stripping yourself bare for your friends and allowing them to see you as you are. Watching the film with my best friend, with whom I’ve been through so much, felt cathartic. It might be counter-intuitive that music known for distinct melancholy could have such a euphoric effect on its queer listeners; but, once again, boygenius manages to find light in all the cracks of the darkest feelings. And god, it feels good to be known so well.