In cinemas from Fri 17 May 2019
Opening in a cheap drag bar, Tucked‘s un-PC jokes and deliberately dated aesthetic are juxtaposed with a brutal followup scene — a tight closeup on Derrren Nesbitt (playing ageing drag queen Jackie) as he is delivered harrowing news from a doctor. The setup is therefore established. The film follows Jackie during her time with a terminal diagnosis, in the midst of which she befriends Faith — a twenty one-year-old drag performer played by Jordan Stephen (most recognisable from hip-pop duo Rizzle Kicks).
The friendship between Jackie and the symbolically-named Faith blossoms with a natural feel after a back alley confrontation with three thugs. Subsequently they become bonded and Faith is invited to live with her new ‘drag mother’. Breakfast conversations, hospital visits and late-night philosophising show them opening up to one another, expanding their viewpoints on life — and death. Jackie finds energy and innocence in Faith while Faith appreciates Jackie’s wisdom, experience and paternal care.
The intimate dialogue is neatly married with plot and the narrative of the film moves us through Jackie’s journey to reconciliation with his estranged daughter. This also, of course, runs parallel with his deteriorating health. As a result, Jackie is definitely the protagonist here, rather than Faith, who is delved into less fully. Derren Nesbitt is outstanding, though. Tucked is interspersed with monologues from Jackie that are devastatingly raw and Nesbitt completely embodies his character’s loneliness, grit, cynicism, and sadness with total believability. Writer and director Jamie Patterson regularly makes use of extreme closeups to capture these scenes and forces the audience to confront the subject matters of mortality, regret, and redemption.
One or two character interactions are a little questionable in the film’s closing act, and, again, it feels that Faith’s backstory could have been explored further. The final scenes also feel slightly rushed and don’t live up to the depth of heart that had been developed thus far. However, Tucked will definitely find an audience who appreciate its modern questioning of gender expression and the breaking of social convention. It works effectively on an emotional level, the script is finely tuned, and the performances elevate it to a powerful place.