I don’t remember the exact moment I started crying, but I think it was probably when Ennis (the character played by Heath Ledger) delivers this line: “Because of you, Jack, that I’m like this. I’m nothing… and nowhere.” Oh my, I’ve just suddenly become teary again. Yeh, I’m pretty sure that was the moment I started crying and I don’t think I really recovered until the very end of the film.
It’s strange though, because my mind was wandering during the first thirty minutes or so of the film. Yeh, the scenery was beautiful. Yes, the actors were truly believable. But there was something about the first part of the film that I didn’t really connect with. I think because it was so devoid of emotion. Just two blokes sitting on a mountain not saying very much at all.
And eating baked beans from a can. For a moment I had to stop myself from giggling out loud as I recalled the other famous cowboys eating baked beans scene from a movie. In “Blazing Saddles” cowboys eating baked beans from a can resulted in an hillarious scene about flatulence.
But to disturb the mood with a giggle would have taken away from the over-riding mood in the cinema which was mostly focussed on when Heath and Jake were gonna shag. Leading me to believe this was going to be a movie about straight men who had sex with each other, the first sex scene followed a night of heavy drinking and was fairly agressive. The next day, both characters declare, “I’m not queer or anything”.
As the film progresses, however, the loving nature of the relationship becomes evident. Although both married they continued to meet on Brokeback Mountain “three or four times a year” telling their wives it was a regular fishing trip. The pretence continues for many years, although Heath’s wife sees them kissing passionately fairly early in the movie. The nature of their relationship is also discovered by their employer.
Early in the film it appears that Jake’s character is the gay man who seduces Heath’s character, but as the film progresses Heath’s character becomes the one who remains faithful to the relationship, while Jake’s character continues on a series of casual sexual encounters which, tragically, leads to his death.
It’s when Jake’s character admits that he’s had other sexual encounters with men that the line that made me cry is delivered.
Jake: Tell you what, we coulda had a good life together, fuckin’ real good life! Had us a place of our own. But you didn’t want it, Ennis! So what we got now is Brokeback Mountain! Everything’s built on that, that’s all we got boy, fuckin’ all. So I hope you know that if you don’t never know the rest! You count the damn few times we have been together in nearly twenty years and you measure the short fucking leash you keep me on, and then you ask me about Mexico and tell me you’ll kill me for needing somethin’ I don’t hardly never get. You have no idea how bad it gets! I’m not you… I can’t make it on a coupla high-altitude fucks once or twice a year! You are too much for me Ennis, son of a whoreson bitch… I wish I knew how to quit you.
Heath: Well why don’t you? Why don’t you just let me be, huh? Because of you, Jack, that I’m like this. I’m nothing… and nowhere.
At that point both the love and desperation of their situation becomes apparent. As Jake continues on with his married life (and other sexual encounters), Heath remains faithful to the relationship, effectively putting his life on hold for something he once rejected and was now in a situation where it was unobtainable.
In the last half hour or so of the movie I cried several times. There’s something about this movie that touched some of those essential human frailties associated with denial and regret that plague most of us at some point. I went with four other people (all straight women) who said watching the film forced them to consider some of their own emotions and frailties. And that’s why I think the film works on so many levels