“Pulse” Movie Review: A Coming-of-Age Story Featuring a Disabled Queer Lead
The Australian drama Pulse offers a very realistic-feeling narrative exploring queerness, disability, growing up, and a lot more. The film is currently available on VOD by Dark Star Pictures, and I think you should consider watching it.
I was provided a free review screener of Pulse. The opinions I have shared are my own.
I have to be honest. When I first read the premise of Pulse, a disabled young gay man swapping bodies with a young woman to find love, I was a bit hesitant. Queer body-swapping stories have a high chance of being messy due to the complexities of gender identity. However, after watching Pulse I think everything was handled quite well.
While queer representation still needs a lot of work in media, queer representation featuring disabled characters is close to nonexistent on big and small screens. That’s one of the reasons I appreciated the type of story Pulse set out to tell.
This film stars Daniel Monks as the main character, Olly. Monks also wrote this movie. Due to Monks being a disabled queer actor himself, there’s an authenticity to this film’s narrative that’s impressively engrossing and will stay with you long after you’re done watching it. The movie’s decision to add actual footage of Monks as a kid is just wow!
Olly has numerous issues to deal with. He’s in love with his straight best friend (who is dating a girl Olly’s also friends with). Olly’s mother can’t seem to hold down a relationship and keeps bringing young boyfriends to the house. He also continues to feel shunned by his group of friends because they get to experience activities he has trouble participating in.
With a hip surgery coming up, Olly gets the chance to opt for an experimental surgery that allows him to swap his consciousness into another body. With everything that’s going in his life, Oliver decides to go for, what he believes is, the easiest route. He wakes up as a pretty young woman (Jaimee Peasley) and names himself Olivia.
From there the narrative shows Olly’s life come crashing down as he begins to realize that changing your authentic self for others is never the answer. The way a beautiful young woman experiences the world is very different from what a gay disabled young man has to experience. However, there’s danger and pain in both realities.
I was very impressed by how director Stevie Cruz-Martin shot Pulse. Both Monks and Peasley are present during certain scenes. So, while we get to see Peasley as Olivia acting in a particular manner, the same scene is also shot with Monks going through said situation.
I liked how this film made sure to let the audience know that Olivia’s still Olly on the inside and how gender identity is different (and quite fluid) than what society traditionally sees. Kudos to Peasley and Monks for acting in a similar manner to really drive that message home.
All in all, Pulse is an important queer film, with a strong supporting cast, that doesn’t shy away from showing how messy it can be for queer teens trying to figure out life. Mistakes will be made and allowing yourself to grow from them is what really matters at the end.
Pulse was released on VOD by Dark Star Pictures on June 2, 2020. Check it out!
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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