The film starring Strictly Come Dancing host Tess Daly is a feminist fable about Lads’ Day out

When addressing its characters, Sarah Gavron, the director of the feminist fantasy film Single All the Way, says her intentions were “realistic but not realistic.” For one thing, her characters are lesbians. For another,…

The film starring Strictly Come Dancing host Tess Daly is a feminist fable about Lads’ Day out

When addressing its characters, Sarah Gavron, the director of the feminist fantasy film Single All the Way, says her intentions were “realistic but not realistic.” For one thing, her characters are lesbians. For another, they’re post-feminist in the sense that they explore the “end of the article” relationships—the idea that marriage was an ideal, that sex might not matter. “After so many years of using feminism to paint women as only who you chose to be attracted to,” she says, “it was brilliant to stand back and ask why, what these women have in common to be drawn to each other.” Gavron, 49, cut her filmmaking teeth in music videos and theater, until she turned her attention to feature films: She wrote and directed the 2002 biopic Suffragette, for which she won the best first screenplay Golden Globe, as well as the 2007 British horror film Brick Lane. Now, she’s directing and starring in a co-adaptation of his novel, which begins on a glorious day in late-19th-century London. The title character is a firebrand woman named Ella, who offers everything she’s got to two men who appear to be the only eligible bachelors in the town. Many years later, when she returns with Ella Fussy, another ambitious young woman, who wants to find out whether Ella even belongs among the Lads Who Arise At Midsummer Time.

After the film’s U.S. release on December 27, Gavron took a break from New York to talk about all this and more.

What sparked your interest in the book?

I hadn’t seen the book, but I knew Ella had been a name that had been thrown around in queer literature for a long time.

What do you think Ella’s homosexuality has to do with her vitality and her drive in life?

What she’s actually doing is an act of desperation. There’s no one to come to. She’s a stand-up drunk, and she doesn’t get it. She doesn’t have any of the confidence she used to have. Instead of helping her get it back, she’s attracted to that mistake.

Do you worry that Single All the Way risks alienating women who identify as straight?

What you’re talking about is the hope that queer is becoming the new straight; that somehow women are rediscovering their own sexuality and taking their power back. But that’s not what this is about. We’re talking about what gay women were doing—not how they want to be in the future.

Why did you decide to make the film in London rather than, say, Los Angeles?

We wanted to do it in the city we got to shoot it in. I think that the architecture of London has the feeling of timelessness.

Finally, have you heard from any straight men who enjoyed your film?

No, they haven’t. But I think they might soon.

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