Our Rating: ★★★★½
L Factor: Lesbian Film
Short Take: BBC mini-series follows Nan, an 18 year old oyster girl in the 1890s, on her journey of self discovery from first love to heartache and beyond.
Alternate Titles:
Year: 2002
Duration: 177 min
Language: UK/English
MPAA: Not Rated
Director: Geoffrey Sax
Writer: Andrew Davies, Sarah Waters
Starring: Keeley Hawes, Rachael Stirling, Anna Chancellor, Bernice Stegers, Sara Stockbridge

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Tipping the VelvetWithout a doubt, lesbian author Sarah Waters (Fingersmith, Affinity) is one of the most successful historical novelists of our time, and several of her books have been transformed into great storytelling on screen as well. This BBC mini-series follows Nan, an 18 year old oyster girl in the 1890s, on her journey of self discovery from first love to heartache and beyond.

Nan (Rachael Stirling) is different from the other girls and figures out why when she falls in love with male impersonator Kitty Butler (Keeley Hawes) at the local music hall. Soon Nan shares the stage with her lover, but finds herself cruelly betrayed by the closeted Kitty.

Devoid of feeling, she turns to the streets as a male prostitute and then becomes what amounts to the sex slave of a woman of independent means (Anna Chancellor), providing an interesting look at the lesbian subculture of ‘Toms’ in Victorian England.

This all turns wrong as well, but Nan isn’t done with life yet. Finally she finds love and a home life in the arms of Florence (Jodhi May, Sister My Sister), a social worker. But when Kitty comes calling again, which one will Nan choose?

It’s moving, sexy (including a turn of the century strap-on), and quite a compelling story. Note: ‘Tipping the velvet’ is a Victorian term for oral sex on a woman. (AB)