For those who have wished for a Chicago-set film about queer sex workers, kink, religion, and talking to the dead—haven’t we all?—your prayers have finally been answered with Holy Trinity. The debut feature from performance artist Molly Hewitt (who also goes by the moniker Glamhag) is dripping with style and poignant commentary on the intersection of power and pleasure.
Trinity (Hewitt) is a queer femme dominatrix with a penchant for huffing her neurotic roommate’s aerosol cans (they’re just like poppers, she says in defense throughout the film). But things go awry when the replacement cans have an unexpected side effect and Trinity starts to hear the voices of dead people.
At first, this is something of a superpower Trinity wields to her advantage as a dominatrix by channeling the condescending tone of one of her client’s mothers. But it quickly becomes unbearable when it complicates her relationship with her partner Baby (a dazzling Theo Germaine never without a dog collar or heavy chains) when she can’t tune out the voice of their unaccepting father.
It’s clear that Hewitt is fascinated with power dynamics and the ways they manifest across all avenues. Whether it be a dominatrix’s relationship with her client, the relationship between queer pups and their handlers, or one’s own complicated relationships with oppressive structures like capitalism and religion—Holy Trinity is a wide-ranging exploration of subordination.
Holy Trinity makes a point to note that, while they may look similar on paper, not all kinds of subordination are created equal. Consensual BDSM play, whether through Trinity’s personal relationship with Baby or her work relationships with her clients, is a different animal than the inescapable day-to-day subordination of people through often oppressive institutions. And there’s power in choosing to be subordinate, rather than having it forced upon you.
Hewitt plays with power in a refreshing way, interrogating the imbalanced dynamics within the Catholic church and capitalism and how those can unintentionally weave their way into one’s conception of romantic and sexual relationships.
Hewitt also thoughtfully examines and remixes religion throughout the course of the film. Trinity’s divine power becomes a way for her to reckon with her tumultuous relationship to God as a young, punky queer person who smoked cigarettes outside of her church, had bright orange hair, and rejected most institutions. But once Trinity gets notoriety for her supernatural abilities, it gives her something of a god complex. While it doesn’t get as much time as it may warrant, there are seeds of what could be a timely look at influencer culture as it relates to tragedy and how overnight idolization can affect one’s sense of self and relationships to others.
Religion is also queered in Holy Trinity, taking the form of a weekly party called Church, which is full of drugs, music, and nun costumes galore. The scene is quite montage-y and a bit of a departure from the film’s larger narrative, but it serves as an interesting rumination on religious iconography and practices being reclaimed by queer people, who have so often been vilified within those spaces.
In addition to being filmed in and around Chicago neighborhoods—and being helmed by the Chicago-based production company Full Spectrum Features—Holy Trinity is rife with familiar faces. Comedian Sarah Sherman (better known as Sarah Squirm) is delightful as Miffy, a spirit who wants to tell her living friends—one of whom is Rebirth Garments creator Sky Cubacub—that she’s OK after dying in a nacho-related incident. Drag queen Imp Kid (playing a fictionalized version of herself) is one of Trinity’s colorful roommates, donning conceptual fashion pieces from Eda Birthing. And jack-of-all-trades performer Alex Grelle steals the show as the Madonna-obsessed priest who Trinity comes to in her time of crisis.
One of Holy Trinity’s most impactful assets lies in the production design helmed by the LA-based artist and music producer Mood Killer. Every room in Trinity’s apartment is expertly monochrome, and there is a clear mix of futuristic branding intertwined with the surrounding city. The “Glamhag” consumer brand is fully realized with a colorful yet soulless style, reminiscent of similarly friendly seeming corporations.
Holy Trinity may not give everything it wants to cover the same amount of attention, but it leaves its audience with plenty to think about, from the politics of kink, to becoming a god and subordinating oneself interpersonally and within societal frameworks. More importantly, Holy Trinity is a film explicitly for queer people—and it is not at all concerned with the approval of a heteronormative, sex-negative audience. v