At a VIP table during the pre-screening cocktail party for Freeheld on Sunday night, there was a baby named Colette dressed in a T-shirt with a tie-and-vest pattern, paired with pink leggings and princess shoes. “Her girl clothes are on the bottom and her boy clothes are on the top,” the infant’s mother explained. “We wanted to mix it up for tonight.”
The soirée at Toronto’s Montecito restaurant, put on by Vanity Fair and Hugo Boss with support by Jaeger-LeCoultre, served as a prelude to Freeheld’s world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Ellen Page, in a Saint Laurent suit, and Julianne Moore, in a custom Hugo Boss by Jason Wu pantsuit, mingled with attendees that included co-star Michael Shannon, as well as a ball cap–wearing William Marshall, the co-founder of TIFF, legendary director and producer (and Montecito co-owner) Ivan Reitman, and Australian actress Ruby Rose of Orange is the New Black (Page’s best friend). Moore dropped in for a short time, but Page lingered for an hour, even taking a group selfie before ducking out a back door with her entourage for the Roy Thompson Hall screening.
A moving drama based on true events, Freeheld tells a story about social change brought about by the power of love. Hard-edged New Jersey police officer Laurel Hester (Moore) and her partner, Stacie Andree (Page) fall quickly for each other, bringing Hester out of the closet to her colleagues at the police station, many of whom are homophobic. After moving in together, life appears to have given them all they need—the house, the dog, and the stability of a loving partnership—until Hester is diagnosed with stage IV cancer. When her request to transfer her pension to Andree is denied, the duo takes on the county’s governing officials with a force of friends and colleagues in support of equality. The film’s tagline, All Love is Equal, sums up its message. “I was excited that we could tackle the complexity of what it means to be closeted,” said Page, “and what it means to have your love compromised.”
The film, set in 2005, shows strongly as a period piece despite its fairly recent history. “It’s a very true, very sad story. But what I will say is that, yeah, it was a lovely experience to come out and be out and to play someone who I admire and respect,” said Page on the red carpet. “What’s special about this film coming out right now is how far we’ve come.”
“Freeheld” is scheduled for North American release on October 2, 2105.