Cicada is currently awaiting a nationwide UK release date
There are approximately 3,000 species of Cicada in our world; their lives spent mainly underground before emerging into the light to mate, and fly free. In their debut feature, director’s Matt Fifer and Kieran Mulcare reflect the lifecycle of this delicate yet complex insect. In a film, where the darkness of emotional repression finds freedom through partnership. The emergence into the light a soft yet vibrant rebirth for two men.
I have often spoken in past reviews about the repressed emotions men hold onto tightly—the fear of appearing weak, leading to a padlocked vault of anguish. The result of which leads to a double life where an individual’s public persona hides their private sorrow. These problems in expressing emotion often result in self-harm, reliance on alcohol or drugs, homelessness and even suicide.
The families and friends of those affected, never knowing until it’s too late the pain the individual carried. However, in recent years this veil of emotional oppression in men has begun to lift slowly. With men’s mental health finally receiving the attention it deserves in enabling men to step out of the shadows and unlock their emotional prisons. And its hear where Cicada finds a powerful and essential voice. Its themes not only speaking to issues of mental health present in the gay community but, also broader themes of masculinity, belonging and companionship.
Set during the summer of 2012, during the US Sandusky trials; a man accused and convicted of multiple sexual crimes against children. Ben (Matt Fifer) surrounds himself with sexual partners (both male and female). His sex life a myriad of connections that offer a brief respite and escape from his inner-self. However, despite the quick physical release of sex, Ben’s fear and anxiety soon bubble to the surface through nausea, nightmares and self-doubt. His outward confidence and humour a mere mask for a much deeper pain he keeps locked away. His regular trips to his doctor shrouded in the inability to talk about the unspoken abuse he suffered as a child.
As Ben continues his mission to find new sexual partners, a young man catches his eye at a local book kiosk. With Ben slowly moving closer while feigning interest in the books on the stall, until he eventually plucks up the courage to talk to him. And as Ben engages in small talk, Sam (Sheldon D. Brown) slowly reciprocates. The casual conversation of the two men leading to a drinks date. However, what starts with drinks soon leads to a more profound sense of intimacy and belonging for Ben and Sam. Their relationship blossoming into something far more profound as they find comfort in each other’s arms. And as Sam shares his own traumatic experience from the past, Ben too finds a new voice. One that will ultimately open the door to a healing process long overdue, as both men finally confront the barriers to their shared happiness.
With a screenplay penned by its two lead stars, Cicada carries a raw honesty, alongside a deep and compelling journey. As the past of both men finds peace, belonging, security and companionship. With both Ben and Sam discovering their inner resolve through the love of each other. The interaction of both men during their most intimate moments, both real and heartfelt as their souls combine on a path to healing.
However, what increases this power further, is a delicate, truthful and nuanced reflection of interracial relationships. The barriers of belonging and lifelong commitment sitting within differing needs as family acceptance and community racism cast a shadow. With Sam’s path to freedom in love carrying many social pressures alien to Ben. Meanwhile, Ben’s path to recovery is surrounded by a need to protect others from his pain. His sexuality shrouded in the confusion and horror of his abuse. And it’s here where the performances of Fifer and Brown are exquisite in both tenderness, compassion and love. Their stunning on-screen relationship creating a film wrapped in the soothing power of release and recovery; despite the powerful and dark social themes at its core.
This feeling of hope over despair is only further enhanced by the direction of Fifer and Mulcare, who surround Ben and Sam with the vibrant energy of New York and its neighbourhoods. The city itself a part of the healing process. With the resulting drama burning itself into the mind of the viewer. While at the same time opening essential doors in the discussion of past trauma in rebirth and self-actualisation. With both Sam and Ben acting as the key to each others recovery, their life together only just beginning to flourish and grow as the credits roll.
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