'Holy Trinity': Film Review | Outfest 2019
The life of a queer dominatrix is upended when she discovers she can communicate with the dead in Molly Hewitt's film.
In Holy Trinity, a queer dominatrix discovers a newfound ability to communicate with the dead. But this supernatural gift only happens when Trinity — played by Molly Hewitt, who also wrote and directed this debut feature — takes a hit from an aerosol can of "room clearing spray" that is blessed by spiritual guides. And we’re meant to question if Trinity’s gift is a blessing or a curse.
The Chicago-set film depicts an alternate reality that mirrors the present day except for the dominance of one corporate behemoth called Glamhag. Everything from soda cans to the name of the hardware store is branded with the Glam moniker — a not-too-subtle critique of corporate conglomeration and our inability to escape its grasp.
Trinity is on a spiritual search to make peace with the damage of her Catholic upbringing and figure out how to best use her healing abilities. Does she really want to help people find closure with their dead loved ones or is she secretly gratified by all the publicity she gets when one of her readings goes viral? As we follow her journey from unknown dominatrix to celebrated spiritual medium with a lucrative client list, it feels at times like we're being served a shallow amassing of teachings (why does Trinity need a random guy from Brazil to tell her what Orishas are?) that epitomize everything that’s wrong with “new age” philosophy.
Yet the film is also earnestly trying to piece together a cosmology that’s queer with a capital 'Q,' that’s about something more than being oppressed by heterosexism and puritanical mores. It’s on a quest to blur the lines between spirituality and sexuality. More than anything, it’s a reclamation that affirms “God” wants queer people to be themselves and that this is a sacred act.
Holy Trinity follows a traditional story structure that unfolds chronologically, albeit at a slower pace than feels necessary. Despite its unapologetic focus on what some might call the dark arts of BDSM and kink, every single frame is bright, bursting with color and lightness in the cinematography, production design and costuming. These elements give it an avant garde vibe that stimulates the senses.
Yet the dialogue is uninventive and overly expository, somehow not trusting the audience’s ability to follow the story while at the same time stopping short of being a BDSM explainer. It often feels like a series of sketch comedy scenes that need punching up. This combined with the mostly one-note acting undermines the engaging tone set by the pic’s visual elements and themes.
The film’s interest mainly stems from the representational foundation upon which it is built. Holy Trinity thankfully avoids the trap of explaining kink to the audience. It spends the bulk of its explanations on the spiritual elements — tarot, what it means to be a psychic intuitive or medium, what the Catholic church says about the human body — and highlights the ways these elements intersect (or don’t) with the specificity of being a queer person in Glamhag-landia.
One of the most enjoyable scenes in the movie takes place in “Church.” This is not a traditional church, but an alternative space that’s part cabaret, part drag show and one hundred percent party. Trinity's friend, the drag artist Imp Queen, hosts Church and proclaims to the crowd: “The club is our church, our sanctuary, where we're free to express our divine selves. Outside these walls we can't be ourselves without the world being hateful, but here you can be whoever you want.”
And this is precisely what makes Holy Trinity worth a watch. It celebrates living a sex- and kink-positive life and explores how an affirmative spirituality fits into that. The lines between queerness and spirituality blur to create a truly inclusive space that isn’t necessarily limited by this world.
This queering of spirituality feels like something we haven’t seen before, and it’s a reminder that stories about queer joy, not just queer suffering, matter, too.
Production company: Full Spectrum Features
Cast: Molly Hewitt, Theo Germain, Heather Lynn, Imp Queen
Director-screenwriter: Molly Hewitt
Producer: Eugene Sun Park, Molly Hewitt
Executive producers: Joe Swanberg, Edwin Linker, Peter Gilbert
Director of photography: Greg Stephen Reigh
Production designer: Mood Killer
Editor: Ashley Thompson
Venue: Outfest Los Angeles