Brokeback Mountain (2005)


Love has never been more manly!
Love has never been more manly!

Genre: Drama Romance

Starring: Heath Ledger (The Dark KnightThe Brothers Grimm), Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie DarkoZodiac)

Directed By: Ang Lee (The Ice StormCrouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)

Overview: In the Midwest of the early Sixties, two cowboys find love while working in the mountains. We follow their secret relationship through the years.

Brokeback Mountain won a bucket full of awards, including the Oscars for Best Director (Ang Lee), Best Musical Score (Gustavo Santaolalla) and Best Writing (Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana) and yes it a beautiful film filled with lots of really nice photoshoped pastoral landscape panoramas, as is to be expected from a film mostly set in mountainous nature. With great performances, especially from Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, it’s not surprising that Brokeback Mountain did so well.

Brokeback Mountain is the story of Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), two men who are each looking for work as sheep herding cowboys (sheepboys?) in the Wyoming mountains. Their jobs are to tend to the sheep, one of them to sleep on the mountain protecting the animals from wolves at night, the other set up at a base camp. Eventually their friendship builds and turns into a spit-in-the-hand evening of passion.

Ennis: You know I ain't queer...
...Me neither.

These two men quickly develop a special bond, though they both have lives elsewhere once the job ends - Ennis is engaged, Jack is headed back to Texas. For years they are apart, living their own lives until Jack drops by for a visit. When they see each other their passions flare up and both men come to realize that they are inseparable, that their love must be kept secret, and that their ‘normal’ lives must continue with merely occasional reunions.

Sensitive to the subject matter, Brokeback Mountain appropriately taps into the shame and love these two men feel in the Midwest of the 60s. Instinctively resistant to Hollywood Lowest Common Denominator film, I was quite impressed to see the script this well-written. Rather than being the story about one crazy summer and its consequences, it follows these characters for two decades, allowing for greater nuance and further growth in the characters arcs. Both men get married, both have children, and through it all is this constant knowledge that they can never be open about their love. These two men who were abandoned in their own way as children must live the greater part of their lives abandoning each other because their society demands it, rooting themselves in their self-made prisons rather than repeating the cycle of abandonment with their families. An interesting character study indeed.

I only have one real big eyebrow-raising question: why would you call one of the characters in a gay cowboy movie anus? Honestly, is that some kind of a joke?

It's true

Performance: 9 Cinematography: 9 Script: 8 Plot: 8 Mood: 8

Overall Rating: 84% (Saddle Up… Or Go Bareback Mountin’)

As I watched, I wondered why something like this hadn’t come sooner. Is it me, or does this story arrive late at 2005? There's plenty of other movies about hidden gay love, but something this mainstream, this accessible, has been too long in coming. At the same time, I haven't seen such popular films with gay themes in the mainstream since Brokeback Mountain. Yes, Milk (2008) and A Single Man (2009) were popular but I don’t recall these getting anywhere near the reception Brokeback did. That being said, Brokeback took a subject that is still very taboo and treated it properly. Ang made a good point and China, where he hails from and which forbids gay sex, congratulated him on his success. Baby steps…

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