Desert Hearts

Director: Donna Deitch
Screenwriters: Natalie Cooper

Institute History


Reno, Nevada. 1959. Convertible car radios blast the sounds of Elvis Presley and Patsy Cline. At the nearby casinos, eager players contemplate their fate over the shuffle of cards and roll of dice. Downtown, divorce lawyers confer with out-of-state clients.

It is a world considered foreign by thirty-five-year-old Vivian Bell (Helen Shaver), a New York City professor of English literature who, seeking a divorce in Reno, has arrived at the train’s depot. Soon after checking into a dude ranch she meets Cay Rivers (Patricia Carbonneau), a free-spirited young woman who lives at the ranch and works at one of the nearby casinos. Slowly, they come to terms with their feelings for each other. Desert Hearts is a tender and passionate portrait of two very different women as they develop a mutual understanding and friendship, culminating in a liberating experience together.

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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