‘Envy/Desire’ Film Premiere

One of our writers details their experience at an exciting premiere for the new short Envy/Desire.

Elizabeth Parnell
1st April 2024
Image Source: IMDb
On March 10, I had the opportunity to attend the UK premiere of Aimee Armstrong’s Envy/Desire at Vittoria Wharf Studio in London. I had been looking forward to seeing this film for months, and the wait and travel was worth it.

I found my way to the entrance and following a scent trail of weed, made it up the staircase into the studio. A liquid-stained A4 sheet lies on the bar, promising that proceeds from sales ‘go to help a young, cancelled, trans film maker to make her second film’. 

I sat on one of the benches with my stemless glass of red wine and tried to look as inconspicuous as possible after witnessing someone in front of me actively seeking out his Twitter mutuals. An hour of socialisation ensues, and the film starts.

Opening with a TikTok by Bella (Aimee Armstrong) and her ‘normal straight guy’ boyfriend Ethan (George Olesky) responding to a transphobic comment, we get our first glimpse into Bella’s life. Aimee portrays Ethan’s lies and deception through off-screen implication as Bella’s medication disappears and the title drop dialogue where Ethan describes his sexual encounters with Bella as a ‘combo of envy and desire’. 

Natasha (Salomé), a redpilled, Catholic, Blanchardian transsexual, instils relationship fears within her best friend Bella after talks over ‘cunty doll brunch’, accusing Ethan of being an autogynephile (one who is sexually aroused by the thought of himself as a female, coined by sexologist Ray Blanchard). What ensues is a montage of a confused and curious Bella entering a Google rabbit hole after searching ‘autogynophelphilia’[sic] during her ride home. 

Bella finds sissy hypnosis videos in her boyfriend’s search history, and Aimee Armstrong does for autogynephilia what Gaspar Noé did for DMT with a psychedelic interlude - reminiscent of the trip sequence in Enter the Void (2009) interlaced with the title cards of I Stand Alone (1998) through a comically hyperbolic lens of self-feminisation pornography.

"Aimee’s debut comedy short Envy/Desire is amazingly articulate"

Ethan, now hypnotised, temporarily adopts a disingenuous trans identity as Cynthia - the film then centres around how Bella and Natasha deal with this, leading to a hilarious punchline ending.

After the film, we enjoyed a Q&A with Aimee hosted by Gaby Bardot, where topics ranged from an intense discussion over the portrayal of Ethan to a fun hypothetical categorisation of high fashion clothing brands (the conclusion reached was that Margiela is HSTS and Rick Owens is AGP). Most questions didn’t stray too far from the theme of Blanchard’s work.

Envy/Desire is a self-produced short film shot on a low budget, and yet the production value is remarkably great. Every actor is beautifully comfortable in their role - in the case of Bella and Natasha, I suspect that the characters are loosely based on their actors. 

Despite being a fun and witty comedy, Armstrong raises questions and sparks debate about the trans experience and the mutability of sexuality through Envy/Desire. Should trans people have to take the role of being ‘trans elders’ to their partners after being deceived and their medications stolen? 

Though sprinkled with obscure 'dollspeak' vocabulary and references to online trans culture that may fly over your head without context, Aimee’s debut comedy short Envy/Desire is amazingly articulate, engaging in difficult conversations about identity and sexuality through satirical Blanchardian caricatures while depicting a surprisingly common experience for straight transsexual women in the modern dating scene. I look forward to her future work.

Envy/Desire is now available to watch on YouTube.

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