Gay movies, or ‘movies on a gay theme’ have a lot of responsibility these days. They can’t just be dramas or romantic comedies, they have to portray a variety of people who just happen to fall in love with folks of their own gender. With a few exceptions, for decades we’ve been the funny best friend, the murder victim (or murderer) or die of an AIDS-related illness. These portrayals exist in real life but so do many others and as the movies released recently go to show, there are as many different stories to tell as there are people.
Not intentionally, we saw four ‘gay’ movies in the space of a couple of weeks and really if this continues, we’ve seen a renaissance in the portrayal of how we’re represented on celluloid and long may it continue.
Call Me By Your Name
|Story||Screenplay by James Ivory, based on the book by Andre Aciman|
|Cast||Armie Hammer, as Oliver|
Timothee Chalamet, as Elio Perlman
Michael Stuhlbarg, as Samuel Perlman
Amira Casar, as Annella Perlman
|Running Time||132 mins|
The first one was the much-lauded ‘Call Me By Your Name’, beautifully shot and impeccably scripted, this is delivered as a modern(ish) dream in the sense of a ‘Room With a View’ (unsurprising given the James Ivory connection). This is a film that takes you on a holiday that you can relax and melt in to, nothing massively dramatic or contentious happens and everyone behaves pretty decently towards one another. The bohemian family and environment make it so that it really doesn’t seem to matter what someone’s sexuality is, the only conflict appearing to come from within the individual, or ultimately when the holiday ends and you go back in to the world. This is an important moment in gay cinema as it shows a very different side of itself than has been seen much before, or at least not seen with this level of praise and publicity. I must admit to feeling not very connected with the characters and while I enjoyed the movie, I wasn’t AS moved by it as I’ve found others to be. Maybe as one friend said about my reaction to this movie, I’m heartless…
God’s Own Country
|Story||Screenplay by Francis Lee|
|Cast||Josh O’Connor, as Johnny Saxby|
Alec Secareanu, as Gheorghe Ionescu
Gemma Jones, as Deidre Saxby
Ian Hart, as Martin Saxby
|Running Time||104 mins|
Next was ‘God’s Own Country’ and what could easily be Britain’s answer to ‘Brokeback Mountain’, though that movie didn’t include someone elbow deep in cow’s bum or two guys rolling round with their pants pulled down in the mud. Josh O’Connor as disaffected farmer Johnny inhabits the role perfectly; his skill as an actor is highlighted even more when you see how he creates characters so far away from Johnny as in ‘The Durrells’. I’m curious to see his take on Prince Charles in the third season of ‘The Crown’. Johnny’s behavior rings true as he punctures his daily grind with random encounters and getting wasted at the pub whenever he can. Who’s he ever going to meet in such a remote location and what prospects does he have other than what he already has. Luckily, and in a pre-Brexit UK (would this story be possible after March 2019?) Romanian worker Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) enters Johnny’s world and things begin to change. Alec Secareanu is perfect as Gheorghe, seemingly very laid back, quiet but emotionally free – the antithesis of Johnny.
Again, as with ‘Call Me By Your Name’, the relationship of the two leads doesn’t create a huge level of opposition (aside from a nasty encounter down the pub) and it’s more the conflict within Johnny than anything external. Some of the most touching moments in the movie come from Johnny’s relationship with his Dad, two people both uncomfortable in expressing themselves freely.
|Story||Screenplay by Andrew Haigh|
|Cast||Tom Cullen, as Russell|
Chris New, as Glen
|Running Time||97 mins|
By far, I felt the greatest connection with Weekend by Andrew Haigh; having loved Haigh’s TV show ‘Looking’ (2014-2016), I decided to get this movie on DVD. As an aside, Andrew Haigh certainly seems one to watch having been consistently good in his choices of stories and their execution. The connection I felt with ‘Weekend’ came partly through having spent my formative years away from home at university in the East Midlands but also from being of a similar age (then) and socio-economic background to the two protagonists. The realism of the situations portrayed, the people they meet, the places they go, the feelings they have all came echoing through to me. This would be impossible if it weren’t for an un-romanticized script and two very real performances from Tom Cullen and Chris New. The filming being with pretty basic hand-held cameras also lends itself to a documentary feel and makes it easy for this to become believable.
|Story||Screenplay by Isaac Aptaker & Elizabeth Berger based on ‘Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda’ by Becky Albertalli|
|Cast||Nick Robinson, as Simon Spier|
Jennifer Garner, as Emily Spier
Josh Duhamel, as Jack Spier
Katherine Langford, as Leah Burke
|Running Time||110 mins|
Lastly, we saw ‘Love, Simon’ in the cinema. I knew director Greg Berlanti from his work as creator of ‘Flash’, ‘Arrow’ & ‘Supergirl’ and was always taken by how these shows would feature gay characters where their sexuality wasn’t that much of a big deal. ‘Love, Simon’ is the 21st Century answer to the John Hughes high-school movies of the 1980s (the look, the poppy soundtrack, the high-school setting, the comedic moments). In the 80’s, it would have been impossible to feature a positive gay character and I think it shows how far society has come that 30 years later we get to see someone like Simon in a mainstream teen movie. Like the other three movies, the conflict is largely from within the main character coming to terms with the fact that they are different; but not only that, they are different in a way that is very easy to hide.
I think this movie is all about that conflicting desire to hide because of the shame bestowed by society and the overpowering urge to be free to live out your own story not set by the terms of others. Again, this is a milestone in cinema where we see gay characters break away from traditional caricatures; for these four movies to come in relatively quick succession is very heartening. The overriding sense that pervades these four movies is one of hope and to quote Harvey Milk, ‘you gotta give them hope’.