Reviewer: Chris Haydon
Directors: Joanna Sokolowski & Kate Trumbull-LaValle
Release Date: Currently Pending (UK)
Depictions of daily prejudices are a recurring theme at the 60th BFI London Film Festival. Co-directors Joanna Sokolowski and Kate Trumbull-LaValle’s Ovarian Psycos joins this lengthy list as it screens as part of the Dare strand in 2016.
The titular crew are a ferocious gaggle of American women – largely of Hispanic and Latino descent – who take to the urban streets of Eastern Los Angeles on their bicycles. They are a brazen gang; spitting heavy hip-hop, faces cloaked with bandanas, and they have “ovaries so big we don’t need f—ing balls”.
We open with a gloriously dreamlike shot. The Ovarian Psycos Bicycle Brigade cycling in brutal unison in the hazy sun; framed majestically in slow-motion. It is a striking and captivating introduction, and the hope is that the film remains as alarmingly cool as the subjects. Unfortunately that is not the case.
Ovarian Psycos predominately focuses on three core members of the biker squad: Xela de la X, a tough but vulnerable single mother; Andi, a street artist estranged from her family, and Evie, a young recruit transforming from body-conscious teen to empowered woman. All of these women are equally interesting in their own rights, but Sokolowski and Trumbull-LaValle’s rich attention to emotionally exercise them taints the audacious experience of the united front.
Never are the females more visceral and powerful than when they stand, rather cycle, together. For a film with the breeziest of running times – a mere 72 minutes – it is baffling how quickly it runs out of original things to say. What kickstarts as an urgent view rapidly descends into clichéd, cookie-cutter territories.
There is little doubt that Ovarian Psycos is visually rewarding when we hit the streets. Just like our two-wheeled heroes, the blocks have character and layers; alive with colour and history. A shame then, that for the vast majority, we are confident to drab and cramped living spaces – a far cry from the vibrant LA boulevards.
Despite much potential, this documentary serves as one of the festival’s significantly weaker offerings. One would love to see more of the Ovarian Psycos Bicycle Brigade, just in a format which accurately represents how badass they really are…