The lesbian drama Snapshots was recently screened as part of the Image + Nation film festival. The film was directed by Melanie Mayron, whom viewers past a certain age may remember as one of the cast members in the ensemble TV show Thirtysomething (1987-1991). Snapshots takes a look at three generations of women, each dealing with issues of love and loss. The central focus of the film, however, is clearly on the past lesbian relationship, featured in flashbacks, between two married women who meet and quickly fall in love while vacationing with their spouses during the summer of 1960.
Snapshots features a cast that includes screen veteran Piper Laurie who portrays the film’s central character, Rose, a widowed grandmother in her 80s living alone in an isolated lakeside cabin. In the film’s flashback sequences, Rose is portrayed by actress Shannon Collis who, as a young newlywed, unexpectedly finds herself drawn to Louise (Emily Goss), her vivacious and bold summertime companion. Brooke Adams also co-stars as Patty, Rose’s daughter, a middle aged woman who is not only coping with the recent death of her husband but also the revelation that he was having an affair. Emily Baldoni rounds out the cast as Allison, Patty’s daughter and Rose’s granddaughter, who finds herself struggling with her own unique set of personal issues.
The strength of Snapshots is its depiction of three strong women and their multi-generational views and experiences, especially regarding love and relationships. Through the experiences of its three central characters, especially Rose and Allison, the film serves to illustrate how society’s view of homosexual relationships has changed over the years. During the 1960s, when Rose and Louise’s story takes place, being a lesbian was socially unacceptable and such taboo relationships had to be kept secret. Love affairs such as the one between the two married women were seen as abominations with social norms dictating that the only true roles for women were wife and mother. In the present narrative, Rose’s daughter Patty echoes this sentiment by openly voicing her disapproval and disdain for same-sex relationships. Allison, however, takes a much different stance on the issue, one that leads to an unexpected plot twist.
With all that being said, however, Snapshots suffers on an emotional level due to a lack of sexual chemistry between its two leading ladies. Unlike films such as Desert Hearts, where the chemistry between the couple is instantaneous and powerful, there is no such heat in Snapshots. Although actresses Goss and Collis go through the motions, their forbidden relationship isn’t depicted as negating their feelings for their respective spouses and even though their love story lasts for several years, both women are also shown as being affectionate and loving wives to their husbands. At times it’s almost as if their forbidden relationship is simply a matter of escaping from the boredom of their marriages. An element of raw passion is lacking, which may be the result of miscasting, but the bottom line is that despite several intimate scenes together, their emotional and sexual attraction just doesn’t come across onscreen.
Snapshots might have been more interesting if the narrative were to have focused more attention on exploring the personal life of Allison. Even though the majority of the granddaughter’s scenes involve phone conversations in which viewers only get to see her side of the story, her candid conversations with her mother and grandmother illustrate the dramatic and complex life decisions she finds herself facing as she struggles to forge an authentic life for herself.