We don’t often see the world of BDSM portrayed in films about queer women, the big exception being The Duke of Burgundy. In Road of Bygones, it plays a major part in the life and love of leading character Bobbi (writer and director Astrid Ovalles) and her submissive partner Ally (Sarah Jo). When we first meet the couple, they are engaging in some pain play, when they are interrupted by a text message from Bobbi’s father, letting her know that her mother has died suddenly. The death sets in motion a reconnection with Bobbi’s sister Sam (Orianna Oppice) and a road trip with the trio.
Bobbi and Sam share a deep sisterly love that has also been damaged by estrangement and an incident that has etched itself into Bobbi’s psyche. The sisters who were not close to their parents, really only had each other to lean on, which compels them to take a trip to try to retrieve their mother’s ashes from their aunt. Along the way, Sam tries to understand Bobbi and Ally’s relationship. The film includes one of the best explanations of the emotions involved with BDSM and kink relationships that I’ve encountered, and left me (as someone who is admittedly pretty vanilla) with a lot more understanding.
One night on the trip, lines are crossed and boundaries are violated, which pushes the sisters even further, and tests Ally and Bobbi’s relationship, or as Bobbi calls it, “their thing.”
Road of Bygones has solid performances from all three leading characters, including newcomer Sarah Jo, who is a professionally trained classical vocalist. Ovalles, who wrote and starred in 2014’s Camp Belvidere, is hard to take your eyes off. Beneath Bobbi’s calm demeanor is a deep sadness and longing that is only alleviated by her connection to Ally. Where Bobbi is calm, Sam is brimming with chaotic energy that threatens to destroy her happiness. Really, my one issue with the film is some scenes are lit so dark that it’s hard to see the actors’ reactions, and that can take away from the action on-screen.
If you want to see queer women interact a totally different way than we typically do, with a fine script and moments that feel so natural I wonder if they were improvised, then check out Road of Bygones. Available now on Vimeo.