Heath Ledger
Jake Gyllenhaal
Anne Hathaway
Michelle Williams
Marty Antonini
Randy Quaid
David Trimble

Ang Lee


Time: 134 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Drama

Won Academy Awards for Best Director, Original Score and Adapted Screenplay. Nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Williams), Actor (Ledger), Supporting Actor (Gyllenhaal), Cinematography and Best Picture.

SYNOPSIS: The story of two young men – a ranch-hand and a rodeo cowboy – who meet in the summer of 1963 and unexpectedly forge a lifelong connection, one whose complications, joys and tragedies provide a testament to the endurance and power of love.

BOTTOM LINE: While there's no denying that this film is an intensely, heartbreaking and powerful tale about forbidden love and undeniable passion, if the two lovers were not men it wouldn't be receiving half the praise. It's not a bad story and in fact is a sweet, sensitive and serious exploration of sexuality that has rarely graced the screen in a mainstream way. However, I just didn't get what all the fuss was about. If they were businessmen instead of cowboys, this film would have disappeared in a week. Yes, sometimes even manly men can be gay. What a shocker.

While the initial exploration of their relationship was interesting, the neverending conflict between being open about their feelings and staying in the closet became a bit tiresome by the end. Of course, without them denying their connection, there'd be no story. They may be men of few words, and many of them unintelligible, but this film has more melodrama than a daytime soap opera. The only thing that keeps it from being ridiculous is the quiet and expert touch of director Ang Lee. He is, without a doubt, one of the few filmmakers who knows how to convey just the right emotion with every perfectly conceived shot, melding the actors and their environment in stunningly beautiful ways, especially when they're out in nature.

It's once they get back to their real lives that the film, like its' leads, loses its' way. Ledger and Gyllenhall manage to create a palpable bond between these two conflicted characters that draws you into their plight despite their poor choices. As much as you feel sorry for them, their love – and their desperate need to keep it hidden – damages not just their souls but the the hearts and lives of the women they decide to marry. If they sleep with women they can't be gay or so the old story goes.

"You know friend, this is a god damn bitch of an unsatisfactory situation."

Williams and Hathaway leave their teen portrayals behind by playing the women unfortunate enough to love these men. Trapped by convention, their lives are filled initially with hope and promise that all too quickly turns into disappointment and disgust. They don't have much screentime, but their pain is ever present. I'm not sure it's award-worthy, but their roles add complexity and poignancy to the tale. After all the strum and drang the film sort of cops out at the end, but since it stays true to the time period it's hard to complain too much. At its' core, this is merely a film about surpressed passion and the consequences of abandoning one's true feelings. It's certainly not one everyone will enjoy, but it does force the viewer to confront any preconceived notions about the nature of true love. Not my favorite of the year, yet a first-rate effort that tells an intelligent and adult story.

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