This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Steve 🚀’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
cw: sexual assault
I’m not gonna lie, I knew I wasn’t gonna love this. I’m already against straight people making gay movies for straight audiences, but then I nearly got up and left halfway through this movie because I was so angry. Even in its formal elements the movie is bad (it’s poorly written, over acted, and terribly drab in terms of direction), but it’s also so morally wrong in a way that surpassed even my lowest of expectations.
If you’re gay and you liked this movie, that’s fine... but just recognize that this is not a movie that was made for you. Joel Edgerton has openly said the film is aimed toward parents struggling with their children’s sexual orientation—rather than the actual struggling gay children—and it shows. It gets off so hard on gay suffering that it practically aligns itself with the people it’s attempting to antagonize. The closest thing to a positive gay sexual interaction in this movie is two dudes holding hands. The movie completely shies away from any type of overt homosexual behavior that doesn’t eventually have a negative consequence.
Did they really think they were conveying “positive gay representation” by making the audience sit through a rape scene? And not just any rape scene but one that’s shown from beginning to end in graphic detail (both visually and audibly)?? I had read about it beforehand and I knew it was going to happen at some point, but then it went on to an extent that I didn’t expect and just felt nothing short of cruel. It’s absolutely horrifying to watch but what makes it even worse is how it completely brushes over the aftermath of it just to throw him into more emotional turmoil surrounding his homosexuality (which is certainly not justified by Lucas Hedges’ horribly hollow performance). I try not to be too sensitive about these things, but as someone who has been sexually assaulted, it’s depictions like these that have continuously made me feel like damaged goods, and that it was unnatural to linger on what happened for so long rather than just moving on—which felt nearly impossible at the time. I’m fine now, I’ve (mostly) gotten over what happened to me but for those still struggling, this can be very harmful. It just goes to show that people without this type of insight should not be telling this type of story.
While the rape was very clearly the most horrifying part of the movie, it’s certainly not the end of it all. There’s many depictions of physical abuse and psychological torture that only lead me to believe that Joel Edgerton is getting off on embracing the volatile nature of his movie more so than he is condemning it. Everything was just so poorly thought out. I can’t think of a reason this cast chose to be a part of this movie other than to get award recognition. Or at least to get a gay movie on their resumé because after the success of movies like Moonlight and Call Me By Your Name that’s just what an actor needs to make them a hot ticket in town. It’s not like they’re “using their platform” to give voice to marginalized people like it’s 1962, no fuck you its 2018, us gays can tell our own stories and we can tell them pretty damn well.
If you’re giving this movie awards recognition, I mean yeah sure you’re “condemning homophobia” in whatever way this movie does that, but you’re also validating an age-old power imbalance between queer people and straight people. This is not only a poorly constructed perspective on gay life, but a completely detrimental one as well.