Ladies celebrating ladies. A holiday coined by an overly cheerful sitcom character. That would be one Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) of Parks and Recreation, radiating goodwill through her male-dominated industry (small town Hoosier politics) and into eternity. While Galentine’s Day was amusingly invented as alternative to the corporate-greed-espousing, chocolate-and-roses day of February 14th, its ascent threatens to bring about more cupcakes and cards. Catchy and cutesy, it makes an easy target for marketers, and ripe for consumption given the societal and political context of today’s world. For that very same reason, the resonance of Galentine’s Day renders it hard to be critical of its potential commercialization. After all, celebrating female solidarity still feels like a radical notion.
So, on Galentine’s Day, let’s revisit these five films that shine a spotlight on female camaraderie, its swirling ambiguities and unfaltering comforts alike.
Director: Sean Baker
A surly octogenarian (Besedka Johnson) and a barely-21-year-old adult film star (Dree Hemingway) are brought together by misplaced cash—a lot of it—forgotten treasure stowed away at the bottom of a thermos. Sean Baker, who directed, edited and co-wrote this film, withholds some details and lets others bob up gently into place, unfolding like an interpersonal mystery. It becomes clear that both women are isolated, on the fringes of society due to their age or career, but, a relationship perhaps initially predicated on guilt, blossoms into the real deal: a veritable friendship, made in the unlikeliest of circumstances and fostered by little else but the open minds and hearts of both parties of this most unlikely pairing.
Director: Melanie Laurent
Melanie Laurent’s undersung feature starts out how you might expect: A reserved teen (Joséphine Japy) befriends a cool one (Lou de Laâge). But fondness starts to curdle when the former realizes she’s caught in the orbit of the latter, a supernova set to detonate care her own set of insecurities. These shades of the Unhinged Woman might send chills or signal red flags to the viewer, but Laurent nimbly shapes both characters with an empathetic hand as she captures the push-and-pull of a friendship gone toxic. The film’s abrupt ending, rather than conclude this as a risible cautionary tale, in fact makes more impactful the jolting oscillations between jealousy and heartfelt affection.
Our Song (2000)
Director: Jim McKay
More than lived-in, this portrait of three non-white teens with different family circumstances in Crown Heights, Brooklyn skews closer to documentary than drama with its unassuming tone, free of guile and histrionics. When an asbestos contamination shuts down their school, each of the girls (including young Kerry Washington in her breakout role) must find an alternative solution for the fall. Instead of pandering to the viewer with a do-or-die Musketeer mentality, writer-director Jim McKay trades aspirational friendships for realistic ones. Without judgment, Our Song presents the possibility that friendships may stall due to personal choices and forged paths, and also quietly suggests they need nurturing and maintenance—advice still relevant at any age.
Frances Ha (2012)
Frances (Greta Gerwig) has found the greatest love of all, and it’s not her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend, but her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner). A montage of their greatest hits: feigned fisticuffs; shouldering a snooze on the subway; streaming movies in a shared bed. Unfurling as a series of bursts and blooms in black-and-white New York, Noah Baumbach’s film tenderly and ingeniously charts their platonic relationship as one would a romantic one: from the breakup move-out—the furious staking of claims to jointly acquired goods—to the desperate chase after a speeding car, here so impassioned as to lack proper footwear. By fervently championing female friendship, Frances Ha has quickly become the new paragon of movies on this topic.
Walking and Talking (1996)
Director: Nicole Holofcener
This New York-set film is something of a spiritual forebear to Frances Ha, inflected with ’90s signifiers (Kevin Corrigan as Ugly Guy in his My Bloody Valentine tee; Liz Phair and Yo La Tengo rounding out the soundtrack) and spikier personalities. Catherine Keener and Anne Heche play two childhood besties whose relationship ruptures when one gets engaged. Neither possesses the same ebullience of Frances, but transmits a rascal spirit, appealing in its own right. A true respite for those disinclined towards pretty-in-pink modes of sisterhood.