16 must-watch LGBTQ+ films at BFI Flare 2024, including Lil Nas X and Elliot Page’s new movies

As in the past, the 2024 BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival features a stunning line-up of stories from across the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

Over almost four decades, BFI Flare has built itself into the biggest LGBTQ+ film festival in Europe. It’s a platform for showcasing everything from the year’s most-talked-about queer movies, to directorial debuts from upcoming queer talent.

This year’s festival includes exclusive talks, including from Elliot Page about his new film, Close to You, which will make its European debut on Thursday 14 March. Elsewhere, there are films touching on experiences from across the LGBTQ+ community – featuring asexuality, queer pop stars, RuPaul’s Drag Race queens, India’s legal battle for marriage equality, trans women in Poland, and sexual violence. 

Here are 16 films that should be on your must-watch list, including big new projects from A-listers including Lil Nas X and Kristen Stewart, to vital films from rising queer voices like Amrou Al-Kadhi.

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Layla

Writer and drag artist Amrou Al-Kadhi makes their directorial feature debut with this love story about a Palestinian-British drag performer, played by Bilal Hasna, and Max (Louis Greatorex), a white, straight-laced advertising executive living a mundane life in a stylish London apartment.

The film, which takes the coveted opening slot at this year’s BFI Flare, explores whether simple attraction is enough to bring together two people from vastly different backgrounds.

Bilal Hasna stars as Layla. (BFI/Film4/Fox Cub Films/Significant Productions)

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Woman Of…

This ground-breaking Polish-language drama is a heartfelt and ambitious story of a closeted trans woman, Aniela (Małgorzata Hajewska-Krzysztofik), growing up and living in a small town in Poland.

Although Aniela realises that she’s trans at a young age, she’s not supported and is forced to conform to marriage and parenthood. Spanning 45 years, Woman Of… eventually sees Aniela transitioning in secret and attempting to find freedom.

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Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero

Grammy-winning queer rapper Lil Nas X’s career so far has been a wild ride. In Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero, his first world tour is documented as he deals with his rise to fame.

It’s an intricate look at the man behind the music, and his struggles to come out – to himself and his family.

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Lady Like

Lady Like offers an up-close-and-personal look at the life of one of RuPaul’s Drag Race’s biggest superstars: Lady Camden.

In this introspective documentary, director Luke Willis follows the British drag performer and ballet star from her days as a small-time San Francisco queen to becoming worldwide legend, having come second in season 14 of Drag Race.

The film explores how she uses drag to heal from trauma and support her chosen family.

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Close to You

Close to You is Dominic Savage and Elliot Page’s improvisational drama about a transgender man named Sam (Page) who, after being invited to his ageing father’s birthday party, makes his way back to his small home town for the first time since coming out.

His well-meaning family try to make him feel welcome, but misgendering and mistakes follow. It’s a story that those in the LGBTQ+ community know all too well, but there is a salvation: Sam manages to reconnect with his closest friend from school days, played Hillary Baack, in a moving reunion.

Elliot Page’s Sam has a tricky return to his childhood home in Close to You. (PageBoy Productions)

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What a Feeling

After 2023 hit Bottoms, the appetite for lesbian comedies hasn’t subsided. Thankfully, What a Feeling is here to stifle our hunger.

Kat Rohrer directs this romcom about two women who are drawn to each other after a night in a bar. One of them, Marie (Caroline Peters), has just been publicly asked for a divorce by her husband. The other, Fa (Proschat Madani), is a ladies’ lady trying to avoid anything serious. But their worlds are about to meet.

Two women are drawn to each other after a night out in What a Feeling. (Praherfilm)

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Slow

This Lithuanian, Oscar-selected romantic drama finally brings complex asexual representation to our screens. The tender film follows interpretative dance teacher Elena’s (Greta Grinevičiūtė) meeting with sign-language interpreter Dovydas (Kęstutis Cicėnas).

As the pair grow close, their relationship has to overcome the revelation that Dovydas is asexual and explore how they can create a personal sense of intimacy far from the status quo.

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Our Son

Pose star Billy Porter and Good Grief’s Luke Evans come together for Our Son, a drama about a separated gay couple fighting for custody of their eight-year-old son, Owen (Christopher Woodley).

Evans play book publisher Nicky, while Gabriel (Porter) is now a stay-at-home father. Tensions flare as their split becomes increasingly toxic, making the battle for custody more and more difficult.

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Pine Cone

This semi-auto-biographical film from director Onir explores the love life of a director, Siddharth (Vidur Sethi) – set against the changing face of India’s battle for gay rights.

Played out across three years in three different decades, we meet “Sid” as he embarks on romantic encounters, all while the political landscape changes for the LGBTQ+ community: in 1999, when the first gay pride took place in Kolkata, in 2009, as the Delhi High Court decriminalised homosexuality – before the decision was overturned three years later – and in 2019 when homosexuality again became legal after a ruling by the Supreme Court of India.

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The Queen of my Dreams

In Fawzia Mirza’s full-length directorial debut, a Bollywood-infused comedy drama, Azra (The Sex Lives of College Girls star Amrit Kaur) is living a double life: Away from her family’s glare, she’s in a happy relationship with another woman and studying a subject she loves at college.

Following the unexpected death of her father she must travel back to Pakistan and navigate the strained relationship with her mother, Mariam (Nimra Bucha). However, as flashbacks show, the pair’s dreams for the future were never too dissimilar. 

Azra is torn away from her happy life by the death of her father in The Queen of My Dreams. (LevelK)

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Unicorns

A story of unlikely lovers comes to life in Sally El Hosaini and James Krishna Floyd’s drama film Unicorns. When Essex mechanic and single father Luke (EastEnders and Bohemian Rhapsody star Ben Hardy) accidentally stumbles into a show by South Asian drag performer Aysha (acting newcomer Jason Patel), their different worlds collide.

As the pair embark on long drives together across the country, Luke is forced to reckon with his own perception of sexuality – and welcome a romance he never anticipated.

Worlds collide after a chance meeting between Ben Hardy (L) and Jason Patel in Unicorns. (Getty/Supplied)

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Backspot

With Elliot Page as executive producer, this drama follows Riley (Devery Jacobs) as she is accepted by a professional cheerleading squad.

While making the squad is her dream, it quickly sours as she tries to navigate the anxiety and compulsive behaviours that come with it. Plus, she’s got to keep the relationship with her girlfriend alive. Frozen II and True Blood star Evan Rachel Wood also features.

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Love Lies Bleeding

Arguably the most anticipated queer film of 2024 is this Kristen Stewart-led romantic thriller Love Lies Bleeding, in which the Twilight star plays Lou, a reclusive gym manager who takes a shine to bodybuilding champ Jackie (Katy O’Brian).

This isn’t your average sweet sapphic love story though, as their romance quickly turns violent when they become intertwined with Lou’s criminal family.

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Departing Seniors

One for the queers who love their horror films with a hearty dose of satire, this is a comical take on the classic teen slasher. It sees Javier (Ignacio Diaz-Silverio) come away from a nasty bullying prank with new psychic abilities that enable him to see the murders of class mates before they happen.

With a serial killer on the loose in his school, he suddenly has three aims: unmask a murderous maniac, graduate and, of course, ask out his cute-boy crush.

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I Don’t Know Who You Are

In M. H. Murray’s directorial debut, Benjamin (Mark Clennon) must find money to pay for HIV prevention medicine, following a sexual assault.

It’s a powerful drama highlighting the troubling aftermath of sexual violence, but with a “vision of hope and compassion”.

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TOPS

This satirical documentary takes the form of chaotic early noughties British TV – think The Big Breakfast – with filmmaker Amy Pennington as an intrusive interviewer who is welcomed into the lives of four trans people who have recently had top surgery.

Pennington is desperate to make her first transgender friend as she questions a powerlifter, a part-time housing officer/part-time actor, an Essex filmmaker and an equality officer/model about crucial aspects of the trans experience, such as: “What top did you want to wear after surgery?”

TOPS follows four transgender people post surgery. (Grey Moth)

BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival 2024 takes place at BFI Southbank in London and on BFI Player from 13 to 24 March.

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