BFI FLARE REVIEW: “A Reminder That Everyone Needs a Little Bit of Faith” – ‘Tucked’ (2019)

A reminder that “everyone needs a little bit of Faith.”

There may not be a more wonderful way to start a film than the iconic first notes of Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive.’ Tucked immediately shows Jackie (Derren Nesbitt) commanding the stage in a sky-high wig and stunning frock miming to the song.

Jackie is fearless, witty, and Jack’s drag alter ego. When Jack exits the stage and returns home, the only reminder of his drag performance is his bold red-painted nails. Seventy-four year-old Jack is the focus of Tucked as he is forced to come to terms with the ugly truth of his own mortality. Left with very little time to sit and mope, Jack slips on his heels and continues to strut the stage. But it is behind the stage curtain where 21-year-old Faith (Jordan Stephens) waltzes into the dressing room and Jack’s life. The two performers find a solace that continues even when the stage lights turn off.

As the latest addition to the drag club, Faith becomes Jack’s responsibility as he explains the rules of the drag club to them, the most important being: “No fucking the customers!” Jack’s reluctance to guiding Faith soon dissipates as he takes them under his wing. From strangers to friends, Jack assumes the role of a guardian for Faith. His innate fatherly instincts set in and he can’t help but offer his couch to be Faith’s home.

With no close family or friends, Jack and Faith find each other at the perfect time. A chosen family is formed from the caring parent-child relationship resemblance, though perhaps a grandparent-grandchild bond is more appropriate. While the inclusion of a chosen family is a familiar aspect of LGBTQ+ films, Tucked distinguishes itself with the generational separation of the characters, a mentorship morphs into a loving friend in the feel-good film.

The generational gap becomes apparent with small comedic moments. Jackie’s comedy act pushes the boundaries of performance acceptability, yet the Brighton audience doesn’t seem to mind. Jackie takes a swig of whiskey before walking amongst the crowd, poking fun at them, only to be met with laughter. Tucked shows that whatever the day had in store for Jack and Faith, the pair re-apply lipstick and take to the stage, determined to live their lives on their own terms.

Brought to life by the calibre of acting talent, the harmonious bond between Jack and Faith must be credited to how Nesbitt and Stephens embrace the roles. Their lovable on-screen connection is translated with light-hearted bickering, an indication that they are at ease with one another. Nesbitt and Stephens lean on each-other throughout; their relationship is the heart of this film which beats with utter sincerity.

Nesbitt is wonderful, carrying the lead with an unmatched expertise, but it is Stephens who embodies Faith’s glittery persona wonderfully. Faith is a non-binary character, voicing their rejection of societal expectations to do with gender and sexuality altogether. Stephens brings acute attention to the bold personality of this character. Formerly from the musical duo Rizzle Kicks, Stephens has turned his attention to acting, in which he excels. Faith steps into the shining spotlight and radiates confidence as the centre of attention. As a young person operating with valiant self-confidence while effortlessly conquering heels, Stephens is a shining gem in this film.

Tucked is Jamie Patterson’s tale of chosen family, Patterson’s British independent film is delightfully charming. Tucked nestles itself within the category of LGBTQ+ cinema as an overall optimistic film. Endearing humour is an essential element that prevents the film falling into a thematically dark space. Patterson allows time for authentic dialogue, a naturalism is preserved with pauses for thought and breath that are honoured. The perceived gaps of identity are bridged by a shared love, drag mentorship and acceptance. The film is, however, is not void of hostility. Dark alleyways are still a location for spouting transphobic slurs and violent physical abuse. Individuals ask maliciously probing questions to the people in front of them. Yet Jack and Faith’s connection remains strong as Patterson captures the pair’s affinity under the glimmering lights of Brighton.

Tucked is tinged with optimism throughout. Gloria Gaynor’s lyrics from the opening sequence echo the last sentiment: “I’m saving all my lovin’ for someone who’s loving me.” A reminder of the shared love and affection that Jack and Faith have for each other. Jack found a friend that accompanied him through some difficult weeks of his life. Tucked is a reminder that you never know who you may meet tomorrow, concluding with a hopefulness about the unifying power of love.