Bella Cherry arrives in Los Angeles with dreams of becoming an adult film star, but she soon learns that fame won’t come easy as she harnesses her ambition and cunning to rise to the top of this mesmerizing and singular world.

A young Swedish woman travels to Los Angeles in the hopes of making it in the adult entertainment industry in . Linnéa () is a 20-year-old Swedish woman, who comes to Los Angeles and begins working in the pornographic industry under the name “Bella Cherry.” Bella quickly befriends her roommate Joy (Revika Reustle) and the two begin working up the ranks in the very male-controlled industry. With Bella aspiring to be at a similar level to superstar Ava Rhoades (Evelyn Claire), she begins to accept much more difficult roles.

Pleasure is the feature-film debut from Swedish filmmaker Ninja Thyberg, which is an expansion of her 2013 short film of the same name. The film stars newcomer Sofia Kappel as Linnéa, aka Bella Cherry, an up-and-coming pornstar, who soon finds herself in over her head in the industry, especially when she begins being cast in scenes she is not comfortable with performing.

As a reformed anti-porn activist, Ninja Thyberg makes sure that Pleasure is critical of the porn industry, without depicting the performers as unwilling victims. Indeed, Bella Cherry is portrayed as a confident young woman, who states many times throughout the film that she is in the industry because she likes having sex. However, despite this sex-positive message, Pleasure also delves into the dark and unsavoury aspects of the industry, particularly a very hard-to-watch scene that shows how blurry the line is between a rough porn scene and all-out rape.

Despite being centred around the porn industry, with most of the supporting cast made up of actual adult entertainers, Pleasure makes sure not to objectify star Sofia Kappel, with her often being shot from the waist up and most of the actual sexual acts being depicted off camera. However, there are still many explicit moments within Pleasure, including many erect male appendages and a moment of post-coital self-taking.

Overall, I will say that Pleasure is a film that neither glorifies nor outright condemns the pornographic industry. Through her feminist lens, Ninja Thyberg provides an often hard to watch, but also brutally honest commentary about this controversial industry.

Trailer for Pleasure

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.