BFI Flare ’22: Sex robots and abandoned cars take the stage in ‘End of Wonderland’

A woman stands in a darkened room, the background blurred. She has a short pastel purple wig ina short bob, and large star earrings.
End of Wonderland, courtesy of Artemis Films

Tara Emory is a self-professed micro-celebrity, artist and adult performer. Living in unglamorous rural Massachusetts, she has created an artistic studio that doubles for a safe space for the weird and the wonderful. With the studio about to be sold, Tara not in the financial position to buy it, and the new film project – a sci-fi porno complete with ejaculating robots – in the works, The End of Wonderland follows Emory as she grapples with her present, her past and where she is going in life.

As she packs away her sewing supplies, props and sex toys, she sorts through her own history, coming to terms with her life and how she still can’t afford to keep hold of her cherished workspace..

 The End of Wonderland could double as a documentary about the legacy of a hoarding father and how that impacted Tara.This emotional baggage is enough to make a full-length feature, but Emory’s background as a adult sex performer only adds to this layered profile. Refreshingly this documentary about Emory, as a trans woman, doesn’t focus on her sexual traumas. While she talks about coming to terms with being different, about the changes in her life, but ultimately, it’s a celebration of her difference. 

Fraser treats Tara’s career as an adult performer with complete neutrality, never looking down or judging anyone who chooses to live this way. Emery has a healthy attitude towards her career, never connecting any of her emotional baggage to her choice to become a sex worker. She has done some things she’s not exactly proud of, but her own work is less traditional. Her films and photos show beautifully crafted costumes and thoughtfully kitsch set design almost paralleling the early work of John Walters. 

Clips from her magnus opus, the trans sci-fi porn epic, Up Uranus appear in excerpts. It’s self-consciously overacted, yet you can tell craft and love has been put into it. This passion project has been done a disservice to only be spliced into the sombre documentary, mostly appearing alongside the end credits. 

 The End of Wonderland is purposely gentle. There are no shock edits, no edgy camera work or loaded questions. Fraser bypasses the cliché sex worker stories and judgement on those who chose the life, instead, focusing on Emery’s spirit and resourcefulness, and she comes across as endlessly likeable, eloquent and admirable. but this  gentle meandering fails to scratch beneath the surface.

Amelia is a freelance writer, frustrated novelist and occasional wrangling of international students. She is especially interested in LBGTQ culture and 1960s and 70s music. She also writes for Frame Rated, The People’s Movies and Unkempt Magazine, amongst others. Her favourite films include Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Moulin Rouge and Closer. You can find her on Twitter @MissAmeliaNancy and letterboxd @amelianancy

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