SLGFF 2009 #6: Sharon Gless finally makes a generation’s dreams come true

Our Rating

Getting Chris Cagney, I mean Sharon Gless, to star in a lesbian-themed film is a dream come true for a generation of female TV fans. When Sharon Gless showed up in the Cinerama for the screening of the Closing Night film Hannah Free (5/8) the audience erupted. I’m sure I’m not the only Gen-Xer who wondered when she was 12 why that cop show Cagney & Lacey was just so darn transfixing…

Anyways! We all heart Sharon Gless, and she is just as funny and adorable and sassy in person as we could hope. Hannah Free is the first feature film directed by Wendy Jo Carlton, who is a bosom buddy of Three Dollar Bill who puts on the festival, so it felt like a friendly family homecoming at the screening. Gless plays Hannah, a cantankerous old butch lady in a nursing home who is basically bed-bound while the love of her life, Rachel, is in a coma across the building. Rachel’s adult daughter doesn’t want Hannah to see her longtime love because it would only upset mom, whereas Hannah just wants to say goodbye. To flesh out the story, a young woman named Greta befriends Hannah in the home. Turns out Greta is Rachel’s great-granddaughter, suspects Hannah and Rachel’s story, and helps Hannah sneak over to visit her lover in the middle of the night before it is too late.

Hannah Free works best when Gless is on screen. She is fabulous, funny, and (of course) cranky (how else do we want her?). Hannah has conversations with the spirit of a younger Rachel as they reminisce about their on-and-off relationship over the decades (Hannah was a traveler, while Rachel was a homebody with kids), and Gless makes the stunt work. The flashbacks with the younger actresses just don’t work quite as well, as they simply are lacking Gless’ big spirit. But still, the film packed emotion and heartbreak, and I know I wasn’t the only one in the audience sniffling at the end.


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