Merry & Gay opens with the magic that is New York City at Christmas. It’s where Becca (Dia Frampton) now lives. She left her small town of Evergreen, Tennessee, three years ago and has never looked back. She’s always had dreams of being on Broadway and finally has a lead role in a hit show. And yet, there is something…or someone, that pulls Becca back to her hometown.
Sam (Andi René Christensen) has never left Evergreen. She enjoys her simple life of working at the local bar and helping the community with various construction jobs. Sam and Becca were high school sweethearts who lost touch, but never really forgot about their feelings for one another. It’s going to take a local theatre show, the holiday spirit, and their two meddling moms (Hayat Nesheiwat and Janet Ivey) to get Sam and Becca to figure out what’s important in their lives.
It’s hard not to draw comparisons to the other queer-women-led Christmas film, Happiest Season. Both are family-focused with a queer relationship as the film’s central heartbeat. It’s hard not to be instantly charmed by Merry & Gay’s decision not to focus on a coming out narrative. That provides space for the sort of overzealous, meddling moms that holiday movies are known for. It’s a choice that allows Merry & Gay to be the breezy sort of feel-good film that is severely lacking for queer audiences.
There is a Gilmore Girls-esque quality to Sam and Becca’s hometown of Evergreen. The everyone-in-your business, will-they-won’t-they that’s reminiscent of Luke and Lorelai, and the charm of a simple life. It’s an atmosphere that usually there for queer stories. There is something undeniably warm about the quaintness of a small town, a homeyness that simply doesn’t exist in the big city.
This backdrop is one that many people take for granted. Hallmark has made hundreds of fictional quaint small towns for the sake of their films, but Merry & Gay’s Evergreen feels monumental in an unexpected way. It’s refreshing to see queer people existing without having to fight to justify their existence. More than that, it’s overwhelming to have the entire town come together to reunite Sam and Becca. This outpouring of support and love for two queer people, especially given recent anti-LGBT legislation, speaks to something more than a simple holiday film.
It’s not a spoiler to say that Merry & Gay has a happy ending. Well, perhaps that’s not true. For this genre of movie, a happily ever after is a given, but that guarantee hasn’t always existed with queer films. It’s almost more expected for queer people to end up alone. Happily-ever-afters are swapped out in favor of the more “realistic” ending. Yet how will LGBT people know that they deserve a love story that endures if they never get to see it? Everyone should be able to see themselves in a love story like this one.
Merry & Gay is everything you want in a holiday film. Christensen and Frampton effortlessly lead the movie with their saccharinely sweet chemistry, filled to the brim with that very specific queer yearning. They have perfected wistful glances from across the room that say more than words ever could. Christensen and Frampton delight in the limbo their characters exist in, pushing the tension until the moment they kiss for the first time again.
Everything about Merry & Gay exudes the spirit of the holiday. The film is about tradition, love, and community. There’s something reassuring about the reliable nature of this genre, and Merry & Gay capitalizes on the pre-existing tropes to make something inclusive for all to enjoy. Christensen is the first non-binary actor to star in a lead role of a holiday romance film, and their pronouns are respected throughout. The film leads with respect and kindness, which makes the love story all the more charming.
Merry & Gay will debut on the new lesbian/queer streaming service, DIVABoxOffice.tv on December 1. The service has a full catalog of over 100 entries of queer content.