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Heartwarming Comedy June screens at the Fall 2023 New Jersey Film Festival on Friday, September 22!


By Emily Ranieri

originally published: 09/22/2023

Heartwarming Comedy June screens at the Fall 2023 New Jersey Film Festival on Friday, September 22!

Lauren Stevens' heartwarming, comedic short film June will be showing at the New Jersey Film Festival on Friday, September 22, 2023, in-person at 7 p.m. and online for 24 hours.

June, a gas station attendant in California, spends her days gossiping with her manager, Claudia, and cleaning truck drivers' vomit in the store bathroom. After recently coming out as bisexual and breaking up with her horrible long-term boyfriend, June is trying to figure out what she wants out of life and what will truly make her happy.

The film opens with a montage of June opening the gas station store; she changes the calendar to the month of June, or "gay month," as Claudia lovingly refers to it. Played by Julia Ribas, the character June (whose name is also a beautiful reference to pride and queerness) starts the day with her typical, mundane tasks, such as checking the expiration date on the snacks and scratching a quarter on the counter in utter boredom. June and Claudia engage in playful banter about June's recent relationship and her sexuality, which Claudia remains confused about. Like a slightly out-of-touch older aunt, she calls June her "favorite lesbian" when presenting her with a rainbow pin as a gift for pride month.

The pair are still talking when Nia, June's childhood best friend, enters the vacant store to buy a diet soda. June is captivated by her beauty and charisma; the women begin talking, and Claudia offers to find Nia her diet soda to give the two some privacy. Nia and June talk about their childhoods when they were best friends and recall an innocent memory that seemingly changed the course of their lives and their relationship. Stevens decides not to reveal the memory to the audience, keeping it honed in on the tension and words left unsaid between them. This choice allows the interaction to play out entirely in a way that focuses on character-building and development. June's wholesome awkwardness and Nia's confidence create a spirited and heartening dynamic, stirring empathy and relatability. The audience will undoubtedly connect with June and its story, viewers fondly remembering their childhood friends and crushes.



 
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The film's production resembles a dream-like setting, especially once Nia enters the store. When the film opens, the lighting is harsher, playing on the mundanity of life working as a gas attendant in this store. The handheld camera work and use of changing focus create a sense of intimacy between the audience and the characters, making it feel like audience members are physically in the store with the women. In another brilliant directorial and cinematic move, the cinematography changes when Nia enters – the light becomes softer, illuminating Nia in a way that emphasizes her angelica. The music becomes airy and dreamy, and almost every shot is in close-up. The camera work remains handheld, constantly moving, creating and eliminating headspace and creating a sense of floating. The consistent use of focus pulls further emphasizes the dream-like quality of this conversation between Nia and June, highlighting nostalgia for their friendship and hope for a different future. The palpable tension creates a sense of "Will they? Won't they?" that unequivocally captivates the viewer.

Throughout their conversation, Stevens incorporates the irrefutable dark side of Nia's journey as a queer woman. Her parents sent her to a private Christian school and Christian camp in hopes of changing the core of their daughter; this is the reality for many queer kids, and Stevens' choice to incorporate this as a part of Nia's narrative highlights the struggle while keeping the film heartwarming. Nia gives June her phone number and walks out of the store while June contemplates chasing after her. She excitedly decides not to let the opportunity slip between her fingers, grabbing the rainbow pin Claudia gave her before walking out the door.

June will be playing along with the feature film Hole in the Head and the short film Out of Frame at the New Jersey Film Festival on Friday, September 22, 2023 – Online for 24 Hours and in-person at 7PM in Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University, 71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, NJ. Evan Bode, Director of Out of Frame will be on hand to do a Q+A as well. For more info and tickets go here

 


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