The story is not sensationalistic, although its love scene could not be more emotional. It`s a gentle story of someone being brought in from the cold. -- Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune
Desert Hearts wasn't the first, but it's certainly one of the most significant and an important forebearer to Todd Haynes and Phyllis Nagy's sublime Carol. -- Glenn Dunks, Film Experience
A smooth and sensitive film that convincingly circles around the many different kinds of love and lets in
light from several angles. -- Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice
Based on Jane Rule's novel Desert of the Heart (1964), Donna Deitch's narrative feature debut centers on a burgeoning lesbian romance between libertine casino worker Cay Rivvers (Patricia Charbonneau) and repressed university professor Vivian Bell (Helen Shaver) in Reno, Nevada in the late 1950s, a climate wherein being queer was...complicated.
Landmark in its positive portrayal of sapphic romance and celebrated for its passionate, sensual bedroom scenes that nearly fog the camera's lens, Deitch's vision for Cay and Vivian's nuanced onscreen relationship explores the tension inherent in a sheltered woman accepting her newfound sexual self.