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U.S., 1985
Directed by Donna Deitch
Screenplay by Natalie Cooper, adapted from the 1964 novel Desert of the Heart by Jane Rule
Produced by Donna Deitch
Cinematography by Robert Elswit
With Helen Shaver, Patricia Charbonneau, Audra Lindley
Approx. 96 min. DCP.

Uptight Columbia professor Helen Shaver goes West to Reno-vate, but she didn’t reckon on chatty ranch owner’s daughter Patricia Charbonneau and “the sweatiest love scene since the adoption of plastic seat covers” – Washington Post. The debut feature for writer-director-producer Dietch.


“Over 30 years ago, director Donna Deitch made DESERT HEARTS, a hopeful lesbian love story that was ahead of its time. The sweet and sincere coming-out-story set in Reno in 1959, look[s] at the queer experience in a way no other film had before and has since.”
– Shannon Carlin, Bustle

“On its surface, DESERT HEARTS doesn’t seem like such a groundbreaking film. It’s the opposite of flashy—a quiet, intimate portrait of love blossoming between two women against a rocky Reno backdrop. But in 1985, it was revolutionary just to make a lesbian romance the center of a film.”
– Gwen Ihnat, AV Club

Film Forum