As it’s such a long time since I had to confront some of those issues in my life, I still associate that part of my life with with “Brideshead Revisited” (the original series, not the new movie), and “Another Country” (which featured Colin Firth and Ruper Everett when they were both very young). In both cases, the “coming out” story concerns a young, angst-ridden English man, quite different from the characters in these movies. First, because they’re Americans. And second, because they’re both decidedly suburban, not members of the English aristocracy.
The first I watched was called “Shelter“. The central protagonist is a young surfer guy (early 20’s I guess) who starts having a relationship with the older brother of his best mate. Growing up on the “wrong side of the tracks”, he has a difficult home situation, and the natural inclination to go into a relationship with a man is not something which sits easily with him.
But in a classic boy-meets-boy, boy-loses-boy, boy-gets-boy-again, there’s a happy ending to the film. Well, maybe not entirely happy as you’re almost left feeling he’s going from one bleak situation to, potentially, another. Is moving in with his new boyfriend just part of his desire for “shelter”?
It’s quite a nice film, fairly gentle, and the older boyfriend bears a remarkable resemblance to Brad Pitt, oddly enough.
In common with “Outing Riley“, the second film I watched, it has all the classic characteristics of a low-budget independent film. The kind of film you might see on midday television one day in the future.
“Outing Riley” is a rather more controversial affair because the lead actor/writer/director isn’t gay himself. For a lot of gay men who have written online reviews that’s just not acceptable. And for a lot of straight men who have written online reviews, they can’t understand why a straight man would make such a film. In this case, the film is about an Irish-American (with all of the classic Catholic guilt) who is outed to his family by his sister.
It’s quite a good film. Quite funny in parts.
In contrast with the “coming out films” of my youth, I was able to watch these movies with a certain sense of detachment. The meanings we ascribe to film go well beyond what appears on the screen. Sorry if that sounds all a bit first year arts-degree, but I hope you know what I mean. For me, they’ll never be up there with Brideshead or Another Country.
But obviously for a lot of people they will have that deeper meaning. These will be the films a lot of kids will look back on in twenty years time and ascribe the same meaning to them, as I do to the films of my youth. And it would be foolish to think the films that meant so much to me could mean the same to people now.
I think it’s great they’re making films like this. Although attitudes towards sexuality have changed a lot in the last twenty years, people still need to see films and read books to help with their own personal journey.
And so if you’re a young gay man who wants to see films which affirm your sexuality, I’d say go for it, grab yourself a copy of either of these quite lovely films.