Closet Monster

This Canadian film tells the story of a young, conflicted boy discovering his sexuality and trying to survive the fall out of his parents’ split.  His talking hamster helps him through and, although that sounds like a ‘cute’ device, it actually works well in this case.

Oscar witnessed a homophobic beating when he was young.  Years later, as an eighteen year old who is about to graduate he notices a new fellow employee at his weekend place of work. Wilder seems to be worldly-wise and a hit with everyone he meets and Oscar is attracted to him but traumatised by the childhood memories.

Oscar is artistic and dreams of enrolling on a make up course in New York City.  His best friend helps him out by modelling for him and their closeness leads Oscar’s father to believe they are in a relationship.  Things become uncertain when his plans fall apart and Wilder announces his imminent departure.

Set in St.John’s, Newfoundland the film and directed by Stephen Dunn, it is an excellent exploration of the confusion felt by some youngsters when they search for their place in the world. Themes of separation, homophobia and misplaced loyalties thread through the film yet it is ultimately a joyous celebration of youth and coming through difficult times.

‘Closet Monster’ is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

Eyewitness

This Norwegian television series broadcast by Channel Four in Britain, in the excellent ‘Walter Presents…’ strand, was a superb thriller.  Henning and Philip are two school boys who have fallen in love.  They intend to keep their relationship a secret so head to a cabin in the woods using Henning’s well-known excursions for motocross rides.  Unfortunately, they are interrupted when a gang arrives with a prisoner in the boot of the car.  It is obviously an execution situation between rival gangs but it goes wrong when the prisoner gains the advantage and kills the others.  He then spots Philip and Henning so heads their way.

This is the scenario that turns into a police investigation; one that would be easier to solve if both Henning and Philip revealed their involvement.  Scared of being outed as gay, they continue to keep quiet even though they know that their information would help.  To make matters worse, Philip’s foster-mother, Helen, is the chief investigating officer.  With her husband, Sven, they look after Philip and presume every sign of odd behaviour has more to do with his concern for his mother than anything else.

Over six episodes, we see the investigation make headway despite some difficulties. When the killer turns up in the most unexpected place, the heat is turned up and the tension increases.  Two young men, desperate to keep their relationship secret, and a police investigation stymied by lack of important information makes for a high-class drama.

‘Eyewitness’ is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

Moonstone

This novella by Icelandic writer, Sjon, is an interesting exploration of a young man making his way in the world.  Gay and prepared to take money for favours, our hero exists in Reykjavik in 1918 when a terrible flu epidemic hit the city.

This tragedy serves as a background to a story of a young man, Mani, who is in love with the cinema because it offers dreams of another life and who becomes an apprentice to a doctor during the worst of the crisis.  He goes into houses to find people at the edge of death or, in some cases, finds their corpses instead.

Mani is not ashamed of being gay and enjoys his encounters with his men as much as he likes the cinema.  This is not an anguished coming of age tale or rather the anguish is confined to the terrible events in the city.  Yet, there is an encounter with a Danish sailor at the independence celebrations.  It is this meeting that sends his life off in another direction.  Mani may be happy to be gay but he lives in a society that does not share his pride.

In such a short book, Sjon covers issues of belonging, identity and the threat on society from outside.  Flu, homosexuals and the cinema all act as alien influences in 1918 Reykjavik.

There is a coda that serves to connect the story to the author.  It explains, at last, the sub-title of the book: The Boy Who Never Was.

BlogMoonstone

Undressing Israel

This slight film from Michael Lucas is an exploration of what it means to be gay in modern Israel.  Despite being slightly arch in its central conceit that the audience will be shocked by the idea that Israel is a modern country, welcoming to gay people, there are some interesting moments and the people featured come across as well adjusted individuals.

The two men getting married, surrounded by their family, were my favourites but there was also the couple parenting two boys, an Arab- Israeli journalist, and a host of talking heads all explaining that it was a wonderful country in which to be gay.  The film director Eytam Fox was interviewed and he is always worth listening to.  Most attention is given to Tel Aviv and there are many questions left unanswered by this film such as what is it like to be gay in a rural community or far away from the vibrant party scene?

BlogUndressingIsrael

An openly gay MP hosted a Pride event in the parliament near the start of the film and talked about the progress already made but the steps still needed.  The film provides an entirely positive look at gay life in Israel which is no bad thing when most films in this arena have issues to face.

 

Days Without End

BlogDaysWithoutEndThis powerful novel by Sebastian Barry spoke to my heart, not only because it tells the story of two men in love with each other, an easy love that did not bring each other heartache or soul- searching, but because it was a story of making your way in the world with all its difficulties in such an unassuming way.  It is also a novel of identity, national as well as personal since this is America in the middle of the nineteenth century and the states are anything but united and the tribes that predated the white settlers are suffering from the move west.

Thomas McNulty and John Cole are in love.  He has arrived in America from Sligo, Ireland by way of Quebec and fits in as a soldier since that is a way of earning a living. His love, John Cole, is an American he meets under a bush.  Together they travel and earn a loving, first as dancers, dressed in female attire, and then as soldiers.  Throughout the story Thomas is fluid in the expression of his gender, something that has deeper importance as the book reaches the denouement.  What never changes is their love for each other and their determination to stay together.  This is something that is ‘understood’ by those around them if not always remarked on; it is never an issue.  This is not a coming out novel with the requisite angst!

The novel takes us to the frontier where ‘Indians’ are being forced from the land.  Whatever Thomas McNulty thinks  of this, he does his duty and in doing so becomes a surrogate parent with John Cole for Winona.  It is the power of the writing that makes you want the very best outcomes for these characters despite the harsh conditions and historical events that seem sure to tear them all apart.

This is a novel to care about and one that uses the singular voice of Thomas McNulty to speak up for people who we now call gay but who then were just people in love.  ‘Days Without End’ is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

The Invisible Men

This documentary by film- maker Yariv Mozer is a sad portrait of the lives of three gay men adrift in Israel. The Palestinians are there because their lives are in danger if they stay at home.  The danger comes, mostly, from their own families.  In some cases the men came out to family members but it is also the case that exposure came from perceptions about their personalities or because they were caught with boyfriends.

BlogInvisibleMenThere is a sadness to this story of men living under the radar in Tel Aviv, a city chosen because it is the most accepting of their lifestyles.  Louie is an illegal, though, and he is regularly deported back to the border even though this places him in great danger each time.  Fares enters the film when Louie is asked to help him.  His family is actively searching for him, possibly to kill him, and it falls to other gay men to rescue him.

The third person in this film is Abdou, an out and proud Arab who believes his future lies in Europe where he may be better accepted.  The gay rights group supporting the men believe this is the best route for young gay men who are not given permission to stay in Israel.

The film follows two of the three to Europe where they, individually, hope to build new lives but they can’t escape the idea that this is not the homeland they would have chosen. The rejection from their families still stings and probably always will.  One of the saddest parts of the film was when Louie looked over the valley to his home village before departing for Europe.  He dared not visit and he longed to return.

‘The Invisible Men’ is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

Release

BlogReleaseThis new novel has gone straight to my hinterland.  In part, this is because the writer is Patrick Ness and his books are always worth reading but it is also because the story of a young gay man trying to come to terms with his family who would rather he was a person he was not.

The story takes place over the course of one day as Adam runs errands for his mother, meets his best friend (female) and boyfriend (male), helps his father set up the church for Sunday worship, completes a shift at his Saturday job and attends a get- together by the lake in the evening- an event scheduled to ‘say goodbye’ to a former boyfriend who still has a hold of his heart.

We follow Adam as his path crosses with his contemporaries who all love and respect him in a way his parents cannot.  This is at the heart of the book, since being gay is not an issue for Adam.  His minister father, his pastor- in- training brother and his mother remain hopeful that the undeniable truth will not have to be faced and, in one scene, the truth of the matter is voiced by his father who tells him how hard he has to work to love him.

There is a strand of fantasy that weaves through Adam’s story and its point is only made clear at the end of the book.

‘Release’ by Patrick Ness is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?