Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a terrible connoisseur of movies.
“Have you seen such-and-such?” “Um, no.”
“How about this movie?” “Ummmm, maybe, but I can’t remember.”
I just don’t get very motivated to watch films I guess, but once I start a movie I usually cannot leave it. In the process of coming out, I wanted to expose myself to gay films. I don’t think I had even seen one before June of this calendar year! I haven’t seen very many yet, but I like most of the ones I’ve viewed so far. Here are a few:
The Bubble. This is a film that takes place in Israel and the Palestinian territories. An Israeli man (who is quite cute) meets a Palestinian man at an army checkpoint. The Palestinian man later comes to find the Israeli man at his apartment in Tel Aviv and they start a relationship. The Palestinian man stays for some time with the Israeli man and his roommates in Israel, but his identity as a Palestinian eventually leaks out to the neighborhood and due to fear he returns to his family in the Palestinian territories. Because the Israeli man is in love, he is depressed for days about separation from his lover, so he sneaks into the hometown of his lover with his female roommate, they meet, and kiss. Unfortunately they are caught kissing by the soon-to-be brother in law, a scary man linked to terrorist activities. The couple has one more happy meeting in Israel, but then there is a tragic end to the movie (which I won’t give away). It is an emotional film because it combines the tension of homosexual love and conservative religion with the broader societal conflict in the Middle East. I was touched by a scene centered on a Nazi-era play that the couple went together to see. The actors in the play – two gay men interred in a concentration camp – act out a very sexual scene without even touching or removing clothes. What?? Well, you’ll just have to see it. Apparently during the oppression of Nazi Germany, gays would touch a finger just above the eye and move it towards the side of the head as a secret sign to say “I love you”. I love that!
Prayers for Bobby and Save Me. I’ve combined these films because they both deal with a theme also touched on to some degree in The Bubble: the heart wrenching conflict between conservative monotheistic religion and homosexual love. Prayers for Bobby is about a teenager who is brought up in a conservative Christian family adamantly opposed to homosexuality. He acknowledges that he is gay to his brother who in turn tells the parents. For some time, Bobby and mom (especially) work on ways to overcome his sexual orientation. Though Bobby is on board with the plan for some time, he gradually comes to accept that he is gay and that he will not change. He becomes more rebellious against his family’s efforts to cure him and about the time he comes of age, he moves for a while to Portland. Bobby meets a somewhat older man and they have a relationship, but the boyfriend betrays him. Bobby ends his life by jumping from a bridge into a highway. The rest of the film deals with the spiritual transformation of Bobby’s mother as she wrestles deeply with the pain of losing her son and her long-held belief of the sinfulness of homosexuality. Like Bobby, her transformation is gradual and she comes to a place of peace about who her son was.
Save Me was actually the first gay film that I watched. It is centered on a Christian retreat run by a husband and wife that attempts to cure young men of their homosexuality. A young man, deeply involved in drugs and seemingly unhealthy gay sexual relationships, is admitted to the group against his wishes at a very dark time in his life. Over time he becomes a model example of “transformation” and becomes the favorite “pupil” of the wife (who is a more zealous “therapist” than her husband). However, he falls in love with another man at the retreat and they begin a relationship. The couple eventually leaves the group to the great dismay of the wife. Strangely enough perhaps, I think I felt very empathetic towards the wife. Though the suppression of true love (homosexual or otherwise) seems a nearly futile endeavor (and it was great to see the young man turn from his wild life to a healthy loving relationship), I empathized with the heartache she went through as she felt the deep sting of failure in something she believed so deeply in.
Brokeback Mountain. This was difficult film for me. Set in Wyoming several decades ago, two sheep herders (Jack and Ennis) labor temporarily for the summer in the outback and fall in love. At the end of the summer, each returns to his small hometown and each eventually marries and starts a family. After several years, they reunite and thereafter meet periodically to spend short spans of time together in the wilderness. Though they form a deep bond, their relationship is rocky and even violent at times; neither is able to be honest about the extra-marital relationship with their spouses. Ennis eventually divorces, but never is able to develop a relationship with Jack that goes beyond their periodic encounters; he seems increasingly like a broken man as time passes. Jack, who’s devotion to Ennis is perhaps greater than that offered by Ennis, is eventually killed by a mob; Ennis learns of his death by telephone from Jack’s wife who tells him a false story about his death. The ugly and painful oppression of homophobia pervades this movie, even being manifest in Ennis who seems to have a lifelong battle fully accepting his sexuality.
Shelter. Ahhhh….finally a gay movie with a happy ending. Shelter takes place in southern California and centers on two young adult surfers who develop a relationship. It takes some time for the younger man to accept his sexuality and their relationship suffers vicissitudes because of this. Both of the actors are straight in real life; I think they did quite a good job playing gay roles!
So there are a few pretty good gay films. To my straight Mormon friends who might be reading this, I’d encourage you to see a few of these. They are pretty much all rated R, but take the plunge anyway! To my gay friends: since I’ve only seen a few more films than the ones listed here, please share your recommendations.