|Jacob Rodier and Kyla Kenedy in Love Is All You Need?|
Photo courtesy of Genius Pictures
The 40th Cleveland International Film Festival closed this weekend with a record-breaking 102,255 attendees and 500-plus film screenings throughout the region. This weekend, filmgoers saw Love is All You Need?, a follow-up to the acclaimed short that has been translated into 15 languages.
Love Is All You Need? shocks and convicts its viewers by telling a classic love story in an upside-down world where same-sex couples are the norm and heterosexual couples are bullied. Gender roles are also flopped, so the townspeople watch women play football as boys hustle them water from the sidelines and the sinister minister is a woman (Joy’s Elisabeth Rohm). The film follows the picture-perfect football player, Jude (Step Up’s Briana Evigan) as she falls for the forbidden Ryan, a reporter (Pretty Little Liars’ Tyler Blackburn). The discovery of their love is met with brutal attacks, so difficult to watch that a few people even walked out of the movie. This emotional intensity is coupled with the storyline of a young girl, Emily (The Walking Dead’s Kyla Kenedy), who is bullied ruthlessly and called a ‘Ro,’ slander for a heterosexual, for merely befriending a boy.
What’s most chilling about the hateful texts, merciless beatings and public embarrassment portrayed in this film is that it’s all based on real events. Except the hate in reality was directed toward LGBT people like Matthew Shephard, a gay college student tortured and left to die, and Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide after a college roommate used a webcam to tape Clementi with a man.
Flipping the sexuality norm, makes seeing each one of these ruthless acts even more wicked because the heterosexual audience is now watching themselves get name-called, judged in the hallways and dragged down for being who they are. The film is masterfully effective in allowing everyone to understand the struggles that the LGBT community still faces, and seeing that suppressing someone’s ability to love another person is inhumane and can cause someone to break down to the point of no return.
Director K. Rocco Shields plans to introduce the full-length film into schools as part of anti-bullying education. Since the short was introduced in 2013, a teacher’s contract was not renewed in Florida and a Kansas teacher was asked to resign but eventually got reinstated after showing the film.
The pushback shows that now more than ever, this message that love is universal and essential to our well-being, no matter who you are or who you love, is critical.