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Elena Undone: Hulu's Steamy Lesbian Romance That's Based On A True Story

Released in 2010, "Elena Undone" is making the rounds on Hulu. The cult classic romance tells the story of Elena Winters (Necar Zadegan), a woman living in a conservative household, who becomes infatuated with lesbian writer Peyton Lombard. The two share a forbidden romance that soon comes to a head when Elena's family discovers the truth.

The film is the second from director Nicole Conn, who made a splash nearly two decades prior with her 1992 debut "Claire of the Moon." Likewise, "Elena Undone" gained notoriety for its LGBTQ+ characters and themes during a time when the industry was slowly becoming more open to telling these stories. However, what sets "Elena Undone" apart is its inspiration. The film is loosely based on Conn's real-life relationship with fellow lesbian filmmaker Marina Rice Bader. Much like the titular heroine, Bader was in a relationship with a religious, conservative husband before meeting and connecting deeply with Conn. The film was produced under Bader's Soul Kiss Films on a budget of $250,000.

Amongst its release, "Elena Undone" received a largely mixed reception. The film currently holds a Tomatometer score of 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, average viewers have been more kind to it, with its audience score sitting at 62% on the site. It may be no "Moonlight" or "Call Me By Your Name," but nevertheless, "Elena Undone" has garnered a strong cult following over the years and has even changed the lives of many of its fans.

Fans still love it over a decade later

In an era where LGBTQ+ films and television shows are receiving their well-deserved success, "Elena Undone" may come across as quaint to contemporary audiences with its lower production values. Regardless, the ideas presented at the movie's core remain strong for fans of Nicole Conn's work to this day. 

In 2021, "Elena Undone" celebrated its 10-year anniversary. Along with the film being available on Hulu and Conn releasing a director's commentary, a testimonial video was released where fans got to share their experience with the movie. Many considered the film's depiction of love to be engrossing, such as one fan who commented, "I love the whole celebratory aspect, when two souls are meant to be together, they will find a way." Likewise, another viewer believed that Conn's direction was ultimately what elevated the handling of Elena and Peyton's relationship. "For me, Nicole Conn really captures the essence of sensuality, romance, and intimacy," they stated. "You can almost feel butterflies in your stomach."

Perhaps the movie's greatest accomplishment was in helping viewers unapologetically embrace their life choices. One devotee wrote that the film, " ... opened my mind to accept who I am." Another fan was particularly empowered by "Undone" in helping them move through life, with the viewer saying, "It gave me hope and helped me have the strength to get through the things I needed to do." While LGBTQ+ narratives have made great strides since then, "Elena Undone" certainly deserves a place for paving the way for these stories.