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Lily's Looks: One in a Thousand - Drama without the Drama


Las Mil y Una - One in a Thousand (2020) directed by Clarisa Navas


One in a Thousand is an Argentinian film about an awkward teen who falls for an elusive young woman, who's presence is accompanied by the rumours that are constantly thrown around about her.


This film is a great example of engaging storylines, characters and action, without the dramatic conventions we come to expect from cinema. It takes a casual approach to representing the challenging themes such as sexuality, shame and stigma.


This relaxed approach can be seen in the film's LGBTQ+ representation. Whilst the main characters, Iris and Renata, spend the film navigating their relationship, the narrative is of them learning about themselves and each other. Their sexuality is never pulled into question, despite a few playful comments from their friends.


It is refreshing to see a film about queer women where their storylines aren't based off navigating their sexuality. They are not trying to work out whether they are attracted to men, nor do they care if they appeal to the men. In fact, cis, straight men barely feature in the film. Instead, the characters are given the space to explore their friendships and relationships in a way that is not just through the lens of their sexuality.

Princess Cyd (2017) Directed by Stephen Cone


Another fairly recent example of a film that does this is Princess Cyd (2017). The film tenderly explores the teenagers' sexuality in a way that feels authentic. The film's drama does not revolve around her queerness - just as a straight character's narrative would not only focus on their heterosexuality. Instead, a character's sexuality should be seen as one of the many elements to their person as a whole. This kind of representation is needed in cinema, as queer narratives are often denied the platform that heterosexual storylines have seemingly limitless access to.


Las Mil y Una - One in a Thousand (2020) directed by Clarisa Navas


Whilst, the queer characters face their share of conflict and abuse, the film lacks the gratuitous and outward homophobia that is often given so much screen-time. Their self-expression is never questioned or criticised. In fact, the non-judgemental portrayal of this makes the film feel like a subtle celebration of queerness. It is elevated and given a platform that is so often clouded by the inevitable tragedy that we come to expect from films with queer narratives.


Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) directed by Céline Sciamma

There are many moments in the film that could have resulted in heightened drama - in terms of the character's reactions and the storylines. However, it feels as though Navas intentionally sets up moments that could escalate, then diffuses them or moves on from them before they have been given the opportunity to escalate.


As viewers, we come to expect conflicts, and their escalation, as this is often what drives the narrative. Yet Navas uses more screen-time on the aftermath, focusing on how the characters recover and help each other following these conflicts.


Shiva Baby (2020) Directed by Emma Seligman


In contrast to this would be the almost unbearable tension of Emma Seligman's wonderful Shiva Baby. The anxiety felt by the character is pushed onto the audience through the unnerving music and stress-inducing shots, meaning that viewers can feel when something is building and will likely kick off.


Whilst this approach works extremely well in Shiva Baby, One in a Thousand subverts this by setting up scenarios, that would usually result in shouting matches or drastic consequences, in the same casual manner as the rest of the film. For example, when a character is arrested, the whole encounter is only filmed in one wide shot. This means the plot point, that may have otherwise been an opportunity for heightened tension and drama, is played out in a fairly normal and relaxed way.

The film's casual feel is partly due to the singular point of view that the camera takes. Single shots last for minutes at a time and the camera explores the scene as a passive viewer. There are little to no cuts between various shots within a scene. This creates an observational, documentary-style feeling to the film.


Las Mil y Una - One in a Thousand (2020) directed by Clarisa Navas


As there is often only one point of view in each scene (one camera set up), the film does not feel as constructed as if it was made up of a combination of various shots. This contrasts another filmmaking convention - starting a scene in a wide shot, then moving into closer shots when there is increased emotion or importance in a scene.

Las Mil y Una - One in a Thousand (2020) directed by Clarisa Navas


Another factor to the film's understated drama is in the beautiful way it illustrates the value of physical touch and intimacy. The rebellious love interest Renata states that she hates talking because most of what people say is 'bulls**t' anyway.


Dialogue in films can be over-worked and unrealistic, with some filmmakers spending so much time trying to siphon meaning into the words that they neglect the importance of physical touch. It is true that actions speak louder than words, especially in cinema - which relies on visual storytelling.


This film's most tender and meaningful moments are the ones where no words are spoken. The characters simply know how to touch and comfort each other in a physical way, making any speech redundant.

The casual and tentative nature of One in a Thousand creates an authenticity that is undeniable. The film's representation, narrative and visual storytelling work together to create a beautiful film that provides a valuable insight into the lives of young, queer characters as they navigate themselves and each other.


The film is currently available on MUBI, as are Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Shiva Baby and Princess Cyd. Watch them and let us know your thoughts below!