Review of “Loving Annabelle”

In Loving Annabelle, writer/director Katherine Brooks poses the question: What’s a Catholic boarding school teacher to do when she falls in love with one of her students?

As it turns out, she mostly gazes off into space and fights off the kind of ill-advised fantasies that could get her fired, excommunication, tossed into jail, or all of the above. Which may sound like a bleak scenario, but the torment of forbidden love has never looked as good as it does in Loving Annabelle.

Annabelle (Erin Kelly) is the rebellious daughter of a high-powered senator, and she’s sent to a Catholic girls school for moral rehabilitation. Fortunately, she isn’t played as the stereotypical bad-girl. Sure she’s got a pack-a-day cigarette habit and the required “outsider” slouch, but she’s also thoughtful, self-possessed, and sensitive.

Annabelle’s new literature teacher, Simone (Diane Gaidry), is the kind of woman who often serves as the first crush of many a budding teen lesbian — beautiful, passionate about the arts, and a strong force in the classroom. Simone sticks up for the outcast and shoots down the bully without ever ruffling her flowing blonde locks.

Annabelle is immediately intrigued by the guarded Simone, who, in turn, is unnerved by this young woman who seems to see right through her.

In a boozy game of “I Never,” Annabelle lets her new boarding school roommates know that she has had sex with women — though she doesn’t officially identify as a lesbian. And because its 2006, her roommates are shocked but more impressed than freaked out.

Simone sees that Annabelle is intelligent and creative, and the two forge a cautious friendship based around Annabelle’s refusal to surrender Buddhist prayer beads to Mother Emaculata. Simone tries to convince Annabelle to give in, but soon learns that her rebellion is for a good reason.

Despite her best judgment Simone can’t seem to help but reveal more of her interior life to the persistent and passionate Annabelle. As a result, Annabelle quickly figures out that the great love of Simone‘s life was another woman. The information is just the last bit of encouragement she needs to make her feelings known to Simone.

Annabelle is the driving force in the film, and a catalyst for Simone to come to terms with her own sexuality. Simone has gone through the motions in a passionless relationship with a male teacher from another school, and is clearly torturing herself by hiding out in the repressive environment where she just happens to be surrounded exclusively by women.

Or, rather, girls.