“Dual” is a fun international lesbian love story

European cinema’s unique ability to make you feel so much of something while giving you absolutely nothing continues to astonish me with every film I watch. That’s a nothing, mind you, that always feels like something, and usually something big. And that’s Slovene/Croatian/Danish film Dual in a nutshell for you. Plus, sweet lady kisses. 

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Dual opens up with a group of people stranded in an airport who inexplicably break out into a lip-synching session. Among them is Iben (Mia Jexen), a 20-something Danish gal. The group had been on a plane from Denmark forced to land in a Slovene airport, much to my viewing delight.

Also in her twenties is Tina (Nina Rakovec), the airport shuttle driver responsible for taking the group to a nearby hotel. But one passenger decides to stay in her van—Iben. She asks Tina to drive her around the city, and the intrigued woman quickly grants her wish.

While a long drive is usually enough to knock a kid out, the childlike Iben is still wide awake some time later when Tina starts heading home with her broken bike. Of course Iben just has to take the bicycle for a spin (I can’t emphasize enough how adorkable she is), and gets a little banged up in the process. Tina stares on with a look that says, “Who is this girl?”

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Captivated, Tina declares, “I hate sleeping” and stays up with Iben all night—this despite having a job interview in the morning. It’s mesmerizing watching these two communicate in English, neither understanding the other’s mother tongue. Everything they say, or don’t, seems very deliberate.

When Iben walks Tina to her interview in the morning, it appears that this is goodbye. They share a moment, but not the moment, and then Tina goes in for her interview. It goes horribly, but fortunately Iben is waiting outside to make things better, having chosen to skip her flight.

We’re beyond beating around the bush now. Sitting in a diner Iben asks, “How long have you known?” Slightly caught off guard, Tina answers, “All my life.” With Iben’s response of “I like it” something is established. It’s at this point where the use of multiple languages in the movie gets really interesting. Both women share secrets and desires in their native tongues knowing the other won’t understand. But whereas Tina’s whispers are naughty, Iben’s are a bombshell.

Unaware of Iben’s big secret and with her job prospects not looking so good, Tina decides to leave home and travel with her. Now to just break the news to her parents…

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Cue the awkward family dinner. Tina’s mom is completely accepting of her daughter’s sexuality, but her dad not so much. What he’s really pissed about though is how she made him look bad by blowing the interview he arranged. His message is essentially, “Go off with her, but don’t expect to come back here when everything explodes in your face!”

And while Tina’s mom gives her blessing, alone with Iben she warns, “When you leave her, do it in a way that she’ll have the courage to go on alone.” Yikes. Ye of little faith!

So with the odds stacked against them, how will they fare? Will Iben reveal her secret? And, if so, how will Tina take it? Or, because this is a European film after all, will everything remain painfully ambiguous?

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Dual certainly doesn’t give you everything, but what it does give you is really, really good. You can feel the main characters’ free spirits, and it’s great. The movie is incredibly genuine in that way. I do wish, however, we had seen more of the women “being together” and more of the story advanced. That said, Dual is one of the better scripted films I’ve seen in the last few months, and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Dual is playing at the Outflix Film Festival in Memphis on September 14. Check in with your local film festival to find out if it’ll be playing near you.