Art is one of the most effective means to counter various dominant cultural and social representations. And it has been quite a while now that cinema has been exploring other forms of love to show that relationships which are not straight can be equally meaningful and life-affirming. Here’s a list of ten top English gay films that have explored same-sex love in different ways.
This 2005 romantic drama about two cowboys in the American West of the 1960s and ‘70s shot to fame when it garnered a host of awards – including three Oscars – in America as well as in the international circuit. Based on a short story of the same title by Annie Prolix, the film explored the complex romantic and sexual attraction that the two men share and how each deals with the social and sexual conformity in his own way.
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Based on a play by Jonathan Harvey, Beautiful Thing tells the story of Jamie, a young teenager who must come to terms with the complex worlds of adulthood as well as homosexual feelings for a classmate. Set in a working class area of Southeast London, the film is also an exploration of various issues like drugs, violence, gangs and lack of a stable home that affects the youth of this class. The film – just like the play – ends with both boys coming out with their relationship even as they are aware that the world is a hostile place.
The first directorial offering from Jonah Markowitz, Shelter was a limited-release film launched in 2007 which eventually went on to win several awards in various gay film festivals. The movie is about a young man Zach who has been forced to put his ambitions of becoming an artist on hold because of family commitments. However when he meets a writer Shaun, Zach is not only encouraged to follow his dreams but also find fulfillment in a same-sex love.
Latter Days was noticeable for being the first film to openly deal with the tensions between homosexuality and the Mormon Church and also all ultra-conservative faiths by implication. Directed by C.J.Cox, This 2003 drama is about a flamboyant gay who joking challenges his roommate that he can seduce one of the three Mormon missionaries who have moved in next door. What follows is a bittersweet tale of romance, misunderstandings and heartaches till finally both are reunited and celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with all those who are blessed by love and a generous heart.
Based on a novel by E.M. Forster, the movie explores the complexities of same-sex love in early twentieth century England. The protagonist of the film is Maurice Hall and the film follows his relationships with other men from school through university into adult life. Along with James Wilby in the title role, the film also stars popular romantic hero Hugh Grant s as Clive Durham who is unable to cope with the social pressures of homosexuality and ends up rejecting Maurice. Yet another character, that of Lord Risley appears to be inspired by Oscar Wilde, one of the most brilliant writers and playwrights of Edwardian England.
This 1999 independent film is a delightful romp through gay bars, shared apartments, restaurants and nightclubs as two men try to figure out issues like attraction, love and trust. Directed by Jim Fall, the movie was completed in just three weeks of filming even as it went on to feature in the Sundance as well as Berlin Film Festivals in the same year.
Steven is a gay teenager in a middle-class English suburb. Along with struggling to come out to his parents, Steven is also wrestling with his attraction to school jock John who seems completely out of his league in more ways than one. A chance encounter in a school toilet however leaves both with an awareness of mutual attraction and what follows an exciting coming of age story as well as an acceptance of other kinds of love.
Written and directed by Thomas Bezucha, this 2000 film won several awards on the gay and lesbian film festival circuit, including a nomination for the Best limited release film at the GLAAD Media Awards in 2002. The movie is about a successful gay artist from New York City who returns to his Montana hometown to care for an ailing grandfather. Back there, he must not only confront unresolved feelings for a former schoolmate but also face up to a growing attraction between him and the shy Native American owner of the town’s general store.
The Broken Hearts Club
The Broken Hearts Club is a romantic comedy about a group of gay friends who support each other in all their attempts to find love, deal with loss and lead normal lives just like other ‘straight’ people. Released in 2000, the film was both written and directed by Greg Berlanti who based it on the experiences of his actual circle of friends at the time. The film was remarkable for its treatment of gays as dealing with average concerns of average people like love, loss, family and sports instead of focusing on the more conventional gay themes like AIDS, ‘coming out’ and homophobia.
One of the earliest mainstream films to deal with the problems gays face in a ‘straight’ society, Philadelphia starred two of the top Hollywood heroes of the time, Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. The film was based on the true story of an attorney Geoffrey Bowers who in 1987 sued the law firm Baker & McKenzie for unfair dismissal in what became famous as one of the first cases of AIDS discrimination in America. In the movie, Tom Hanks plays the role of Andrew Beckett who is struggling against AIDS but more so an indifferent legal and social system while Washington plays the role of the gutsy personal injury lawyer Joe Miller who is initially hesitant to take up the case but is impressed by Beckett’s courage and resilience into fighting for his client.