Based largely on turning the camera on himself, director/co-writer Matthew Smith (along with Chris Haynes and Ben Milliken) has cobbled together a thoughtful documentary that ought to help those struggling with the truth of their sexual identity find the courage to come out rather than continuing to live life as a lie.
Easier said than done.
Along with his partner Solly Hemus, the engaging couple brings their family members (early molester withstanding…), friends, co-workers and celebrity colleagues (notably Greg Louganis “Wouldn’t it be great if it were a non-issue?” whose Olympic silver medal lost its lustre in 1976 thanks to a judgmental father; thank goodness he was not successful in the subsequent suicide attempt) under cinematographer Xarenie Penichet’s far-reaching lens.
Straight and gay voices are heard (but none from their persecutors), stories of horror (bullying, abuse and firings) are tempered with the obvious love of the principals for themselves and one another, activists (none more determined that Queer Eye host, Carson Kressley), along with a covey of individuals who have had the courage of their convictions to speak publicly about their experiences of leaving the apparent safety of the closet for the heady roller coaster of becoming as queer as can be.
Although beginning with promise (the introduction of Rossini’s Overture to William Tell—no doubt chosen for its more metaphorical and common, popular name: The Lone Ranger), the music tracks (framed with bassoon—faggot: it’s German name…—interventions) slip into a quiet dullness with the near-unceasing chamber loop (voice, violin, piano, cello) once Solly begins the long parade of extra-personal comments and revelations.
The conceit of a pompous, bigoted narrator warning viewers against the perils of homosexuality has a nice McCarthyesque tone (Haynes) but is too often MIA to effectively link the wide-ranging material into a more cohesive whole.
When it’s his turn, Smith soars into the rarefied world of honesty, searing the hearts, souls and minds of all viewers. Having firsthand experience being abused when four then 11, the burgeoning filmmaker emphatically makes the points that (a) he didn’t become gay because of those evil acts (“Predators look for easy prey”—none better than insecure queers struggling with such forbidden attractions deep inside), (b) coming out—along with clinical treatment when required—remains the best therapy of all. It’s hard to bully or make fun of those strong enough to face their own truth and no longer pretend to be “normal” for the sake of everyone but themselves.
Smith’s mom, offers a marvellously optimistic phrase that the rest of the world should “Catch up [with acceptance and tolerance] or get over yourselves.”
Now let’s just hope that wide distribution of this important project will find its way to those currently wondering if the taunts, epithets and demeaning legislation swirling about in their worlds are just too many burdens to continue the fight. JWR