Desert Hearts

USA 1986. Dir: Donna Deitch. 96 min. DCP

“Wonderfully well-made ... The film has a beguilingly hypnotic atmosphere ... It conveys romantic longing and confusion with bittersweet intensity.”

NEW RESTORATION! | Being queer in Reno, Nevada, in 1959 was ... complicated. A milestone in the positive (and passionate) depiction of lesbian romance in mainstream cinema, Donna Deitch’s debut feature was an art-house hit in 1986 and has now been newly restored. Adapting a novel by Jane Rule, the ground-breaking author who was based in British Columbia, the film stars another Canadian, Helen Shaver, as an uptight university professor exiting a failed marriage. She lands in Reno in search of a quickie divorce, and falls under the spell of a free-spirited sculptor and casino worker, played by Patricia Charbonneau. The film has striking similarities to Todd Haynes’s Carol. The great soundtrack is composed of classic country and rock-and-roll tunes. Both Shaver and Charbonneau were advised that Desert Hearts would ruin their careers!


“Thirty years before Carol, there was Donna Deitch’s genre-defying Desert Hearts ... It still resonates ... An extraordinarily important moment in queer film history.”

BuzzFeed | full review