”At age 3 Antonia knocked me unconscious with a milk bottle,” says Jane Hartman, the underdog heroine of British import Antonia & Jane, which explores the long, convoluted friendship of two women. ”At 5, she buried me alive in the garden…At 7, she created a secret society and wouldn’t let me join. Needless to say, I worshiped her.”
Dynasty’s Krystle and Alexis cat-fight over less, but British director Beeban Kidron, 30, makes the affection between Antonia and Jane perfectly plausible. Jane is a free — if awkward— spirit who envies Antonia’s finesse. Antonia is a pristine beauty who envies Jane’s spunk. ”My real theory about the film is that the two characters are really fighting the battle between the two parts of ourselves,” says Kidron.
The director, who lives alone in her native London, has made complex relationships her forte. In last year’s acclaimed BBC movie Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, which also aired here on A&E, she explored a young lesbian’s coming of age in a fanatically Pentecostal family. And in Used People — Kidron’s first American feature, now shooting in Toronto — she looks at a man (Marcello Mastroianni) and his secret 23-year obsession with a woman (Shirley MacLaine) who doesn’t know him. That movie has another set of lifelong friends, this time played by Sylvia Sidney and Jessica Tandy. ”It’s the sort of friendship that is all about contradicting (one another),” she says. ”The world is a very small place. I think there are only 12 relationships in the world and you keep on having them.”