I really wanted to like Hannah Free. The DVD case has positive quotes from the Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and The San Francisco Examiner. The film won awards at the Philadelphia Q-Fest, the Austin LGBT Film Festival, and the Montreal International LGBT Film Festival. Sharon Gless, certainly a gay icon after her roles in Cagney and Lacey and in the U.S. version of Queer As Folk, is good, indeed the best thing about the film. But she is better than the material, and her co-stars are not her equals in talent.
Hannah Free tells the story of a lesbian couple, Hannah and Rachel, over many years. In the present, they are in a nursing home, but kept apart because they are not viewed as being related by the staff or by other family members. Different actresses play the couple at different ages in flashbacks (which are not in chronological order) that provide events from their childhood through to their present situation.
Hannah and Rachel are very different, which provides the story’s conflict, and there are occasional separations: one due to Rachelâ€™s marriage to a man and another due to Hannah’s wanderlust.
Hoping to understand this film differently, I spent some time thinking about the womenâ€™s biblical names and reviewing their stories in the Old Testament. But, regretfully, I ended up in the same place: Despite the review quotes, despite the awards, there is a point where the storyâ€™s plot is obvious, and while I don’t want to include a spoiler here, we’ve seen the ending before in a much better Oscar winner, Million Dollar Baby.
Hannah Free was originally produced on the stage, and perhaps something happened in the transition to film. It simply does not quite work and only libraries collecting LGBT films extensively will want to purchase.
Reviewed by, Dave Combe
Ventura County Library