Mon 20 Feb, 2017 01:29 Leave a comment
My favourite anecdote about this film is that back in 2014, when the movie was released in Japan, one of my middle-aged students recommended this movie to me (and the others in the group). I don’t generally talk about my sexuality or relationships with my students (have to draw a line somewhere), so I have to wonder whether she’d sussed me out and was trying to wheedle it out of me, or whether she’d just thought it was good and worth sharing. Aw, I kinda miss them.
Anyway, the movie is about a gay couple in the late 1970s / early 80s who take a disabled kid under their wing (he has Down syndrome) when his mother ends up in prison, and eventually go to court to try and get legal custody of him. One is a lawyer who’s summarily kicked out of his job by a homophobic employer. The other is a drag queen and singer played by Alan Cumming. Spoilers ahead, watch out!
The movie has all the hallmarks of something based on a true story, but digging a little into the background after watching it, I found that only the beginning part – a gay man taking care of his neighbour’s disabled kid – was based in reality. The second half of the film, where they have the legal battle to try and get the kid, is realistic based on the period, and researched very well, but entirely speculative and fictional. It might be an amalgamation of a few real court cases.
To be honest, I felt kind of cheated that it wasn’t. I don’t know which part of the story it was that felt like it couldn’t be fake – perhaps the court case itself, or the personalities of the characters, or the particularly speedy start to the two men’s relationship (it blossoms cutely and naturally, but very quickly), or the fact that it ends on a really massive downer. I mean, I’ve watched plenty of other period drama recently (Sing Street, High-Rise, Stranger Things, etc), and it’s not like I believed they were real. I think it’s just the nature of the bold leaps of faith in storytelling – or perhaps I had a preconceived notion that it was based in reality.
On the other hand, perhaps all that is just testament to the realism of the film (although it is a bit kitschy at times). I believed every second of it, and I thought the characters were smartly portrayed by all the actors – of course Alan Cumming was great in his role, and I loved the young actor playing the kid. I thought I recognized the other man, but I saw other pictures of him online and I don’t think I know the actor.
So it’s a smart film, I thought. I’d like to hear from others who’ve seen it – what did you think?