Just Pervs, presented by Perverted Assemblages for the Toronto Fringe Festival 2021, is a short film examining the intense bond between four female friends in a suburban high school. Revelling in their status as social outcasts, they form a subversive clique obsessed with a fervent unpacking of their own sexuality.
After Jill’s hyper-sexual play about the four of them (herself, Jenade, Penny and Dani) gets spread around school—ensuring their social exclusion—they declare themselves revolutionaries. Embracing their “perversion,” they inhabit their own sensual, secluded world. Internal politics and individual needs come to complicate their dynamic. And eventually they drift off to separate universities.
A full decade after their meeting, the death of one compels the remaining three to reconnect and reexamine.
Written by Reid Millar, this piece is adapted from a short story by Jess Taylor. This version is structured as a quirky, surrealist documentary. Stylized tableaux recreations of events are intercut with testimonial commentary from each of the characters.
Directors Giulia Pittiglio and Davinder Malhi fill the frame with offbeat theatrical artifice. In one fancifully grotesque segment, the actors feast decadently on cake, accompanied by baroque music, surrounded by endless flasks of pink liquid. The aesthetic gives off some strong Sophia Coppola vibes and I dig it.
I was into everything here—the nuanced sexuality, the study of group vs. individual identity, the whimsical discussions about the soul, the awkwardly woven-in yet genuine emotionality of the land acknowledgement that comes mid-way through. Everything is so heartfelt, handled with such a light touch you almost miss how poignant it all is.
From the writing to the nuances of performance, the entire creative team maintains a perfect balance between the sincere and the sardonic. It is a story told in retrospect, looking back on the anarchic passions of youth, and they handle the precarious tonal duality masterfully.
There is also a chilling portrait of coercive control here. Tensions flare from Jenade’s relationship to a possessive boyfriend. We never meet Chris, but we see him clearly in the disquieting, second-hand glimpses of his red-flag behaviour.
Sanskruti Marathe, Cassandra Henry, Jahnelle Jones, and Millie Herridge all craft sensitive, hilarious, vivid personalities. Henry (Jenade) and Marathe (Jill) stand out as they have the most fully explored chemistry.
As a finished film, the only notable flaw is some inconsistent sound quality. Regardless, Just Pervs held me tight in its lyrical embrace for the full hour.