The Oscar-nominated short film Marguerite centers on the heartbreaking and hopeful friendship of elderly Marguerite (Béatrice Picard) and her nurse, Rachel, (Sandrine Bisson). When Rachel tells Marguerite she has a girlfriend, feelings from Marguerite's youth resurface, prompting her to examine her past desires and make peace with them. With its queer female characters, the film stands as the only nominated short film with any LGBTQ elements. Writer-director Marianne Farley also stands out in the category as the only female director nominated. She described the excitement of the nomination as "surreal," adding, "There's no way you can prepare yourself for something like this. It's something that we all dream about but then you're here and you go, 'What? How did this happen?'"
Farley shared with The Advocate how she made such a touching short film that resonates across generations. Her grandmother inspired the character of Marguerite, along with reflection on the evolution of women's rights and LGBTQ rights in the last 50 years.
"I always kind of wondered what it would've been like for a woman in the 1950s, had she fallen in love with another woman. It must've happened like, millions of times," she said. With that curiosity in mind, she wrote the script and submitted it to Canada's government-funded film board. After securing financing, she made gender parity in her crew a priority. "It's really important to me that that happens, that we give women an opportunity in film."
The first shots in the film are close-ups of Rachel tenderly washing Marguerite's back. Farley said the camera lingers on their moments of physical contact because "for Marguerite, this sensuality opens her up to those feelings and those thoughts and her past, the secret past that she had and that she buried away."
Rachel's closeness contrasts with the Marguerite's loneliness when Rachel leaves. This isolation is palpable in one haunting shot of Marguerite steeping tea at her table. "That shot represents everything that she repressed her whole life," Farley said.
Farley evoked that visual contrast to illustrate how "Rachel's presence brings light to her life. And allows her to let go of that darkness."
Marguerite brings her darkened desires to light by revisiting memories of a woman she once loved. Farley desribed working with her actors to shape this desire. "It's not necessarily about homosexuality; it's about love. It's about a lost love. So we didn't have conversations in that sense necessarily, because we didn't have to; it was just, she was in love with a woman and she was just not able to express it the way she should've," she said.
After Marguerite opens up about her lost love to Rachel, the two share a bittersweet kiss. Their lives merge in that moment as Marguerite receives a literal taste of what she could've had, and Rachel learns that she can't take the love in her life for granted. "Life is short," Farley said. "Live the best life that you can live and just love who you are and accept who you are. That's one thing. And the other thing is, human connection is all that matters. I truly believe that."
Watch a moment of connection in this clip from Oscar-nominated Marguerite.