Dating Amber (2020)
“You can’t be who you need to be here. This place will kill you.”
Sometimes we need to physically leave where we are in order to emotionally be who we are. In Dating Amber, Eddie and Amber are each others’ beards (as the film was once titled). But this will only get them so far. Sure, it kept the awful teenagers off their backs, but they still needed to be themselves.
As a story from 1995, I certainly found this relatable. Much has changed since the last century, but in small towns sometimes things change even more slowly. This film perfectly captures the angst of having to figure out how one will live a life when something else is expected. A friend says to Eddie at one point, “Just because we feel… you know… Doesn’t mean we have to,” and this is the rut that Eddie is stuck in the entire time.
Amber knows that she is a lesbian, and she knows she needs to get out of her small town to become who she is. She says several times, “This place will kill you.” I think there are other things that influence her saying that, but she believes it to be true. Eddie is aware on some level that he’s gay, but isn’t able to admit it to himself.
You wouldn’t think this would be considered a love story – more coming of age. But not all love stories are about romantic love. Even though Amber and Eddie agreed to date to make their lives easier, it has unintended results. In many rom-coms we have these montages of people getting to know each other and falling in love. We see this with Amber and Eddie, but this is different.
There is a touching scene after the two go to their first big gay dance club where Eddie isn’t dealing with things very well, and Amber is there for him. I first noticed this dynamic in the scenes where they walk down the halls at school, and it looks like nothing can hurt them. They have each other’s backs.
This is a relationship between gay men and lesbians that has existed for decades in various ways, and it’s a part of our history. Gay men and women protected each other when they could. There’s a unique relationship that forms there, and it’s something to be treasured.
Besides all of that, Dating Amber has many funny moments and one-liners. I noted at one point that it was a shame that Eddie couldn’t fully appreciate all of them as Amber had some great dialogue. When Eddie is trying to see if they can be more than platonic, Amber says, “I like pussy and you like cock – its a fundamental obstacle!”
There are some undeveloped characters in the film, but they seem to represent archetypes that we know so well. Amber and Eddie are the central focus and while they react to others, it’s really all about them and their journey both together and separately.
I found this film a joy to watch as both a trip down an angsty memory lane and watching Amber and Eddie connect in ways we didn’t expect.