The five films for this month’s theme are QUITE a powerhouse of films! Among them, three of the films won Oscars for their performances, and another was groundbreaking in its realist and honest portrayal as the first TV or feature film to depict AIDS. Round out a cast of incredibly talented actors and actresses – this month’s films were a treasure to watch/rewatch.
But what makes a film a Drama? As I hold IMDb’s standards akin to my own (due to a common frame of reference to most of you reading along), here is what they have to say about the Drama genre:
“Should contain numerous consecutive scenes of characters portrayed to effect a serious narrative throughout the title, usually involving conflicts and emotions. This can be exaggerated upon to produce melodrama. Subjective“
To make it more complicated, many drama films are also romances or other genres. A simplification would be to consider any film who’s storyline is merely dramatic could be classified as a Drama. Which makes it VERY challenging to chose films – because unlike the Western genre, where there are very specific requirements, there are very loose requirements regarding Dramas. And queer drama films run the entire gamut of storylines! It was very difficult to choose JUST five queer drama films. Most of these films hold the similar or same ratings on IMDb, and rightfully so! To justify this selection, I tried to pick from a wider range of sub-genres or topics: AIDS, period drama, semi-historical, foreign, etc.
I’m curious to know what films that you might have chosen instead – so drop a comment below listing your top five queer drama films.
[Note: Not all of these films have full reviews yet – but they’re added to the quickly growing list of films I plan to tackle soon!]
5 Queer Drama Films
In 1963, rodeo cowboy Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and ranch hand Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) are hired by rancher Joe Aguirre (Randy Quaid) as sheep herders in Wyoming. One night on Brokeback Mountain, Jack makes a drunken pass at Ennis that is eventually reciprocated. Though Ennis marries his longtime sweetheart, Alma (Michelle Williams), and Jack marries a fellow rodeo rider (Anne Hathaway), the two men keep up their tortured and sporadic affair over the course of 20 years.
Most folks know of “Brokeback Mountain”, even if it’s merely that it’s the nominated film that got passed over for Best Picture at the 2006 Oscars all because it featured two gay men in a romance. (Many others, including director Ang Lee, were also upset that Heath was also robbed of a truly deserving Best Actor Oscar). But why all this contention? Because “Brokeback Mountain” is a masterpiece in every way! Those who are not a major fan usually can’t get past Ang Lee’s directorial style which is very slow paced, yet pairs perfectly well with the short story by Annie Proulx that the film is based upon – it’s REALLY short! However attention was paid to every little detail, the acting was all around phenomenal, the shots were simply gorgeous and stunning – it’s simply a breathtaking and powerful film to watch. Personally, I’d be surprised if you have not yet seen “Brokeback Mountain!” (But I’ll forgive you if immediately you add this queer drama film to your watch list.)
Fearing it would compromise his career, lawyer Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) hides his homosexuality and HIV status at a powerful Philadelphia law firm. But his secret is exposed when a colleague spots the illness’s telltale lesions. Fired shortly afterwards, Beckett resolves to sue for discrimination, teaming up with Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), the only lawyer willing to help.
Words cannot describe how powerful “Philadelphia” is as queer drama film – I’ll let it’s two Oscar wins tell you that! (Best Actor in Lead Role for Tom Hanks & Best Original Song). Often listed as one of the first major motion pictures to truly tackle the AIDS epidemic and bring its horrors to a mainstream, non-homosexual audience, it wasn’t without some faults. Most lament that it’s stereotypical and “too perfectly pieced together” – and about a decade “too late”, as the AIDS epidemic began in 1981 yet the film wasn’t released until 1993. However there is no doubt the powerful impact “Philadelphia” had on audiences. With major stars handling the lead roles (Tom Hanks credits his casting as crucial in bringing the subject matter to a wider audience, seeing a named star in the leading role) and an incredibly dramatic and captivating story, it’s clear why. If there’s a chance that you have not yet seen this queer drama film, you MUST find yourself a copy and watch “Philadelphia” – it’s that important!
A Greek saying states that only women who have washed their eyes with tears can see clearly. This saying does not hold true for Manuela (Cecilia Roth). The night a car ran over her son Esteban, Manuela cried until her eyes ran completely dry. Far from seeing clearly, the present and the future become mixed up in darkness. She returns to Barcelona to find her son’s father, Lola (Toni Cantó), a transgender woman whom Manuela kept secret from her son – just as she never told Lola they had a son.
And in what seems to be a pattern… I wasn’t able to finish watching “All About My Mother” before I needed to publish this month’s queer drama films post. Sorry! (Having to watch the film with subtitles on makes it hard to fit in). Give me a day or two and I’ll add my thoughts – but just know that Pedro Almodóvar is a master in filmography; the fact that this film took home an Oscar is clear proof! Stay tuned…
Brian Lackey (Brady Corbet) is determined to discover what happened during an amnesia blackout when he was eight years old, and then later woke with a bloody nose. He believes he was abducted by aliens, and N. McCormick, a fellow player on Brian’s childhood baseball team, may be the key as to exactly what happened that night. As Brian searches for the truth and tries to track him down, Neil McCormick (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) takes up hustling and moves to New York, in attempts to forget childhood memories that haunt him. Together, the two of them uncover the terrible truth of the scars they share.
“Mysterious Skin” is a brilliantly directed film that gives an honest glimpse into darkness. Based on the novel by Scott Heim of the same name, the plot balances between the lives of two adolescent boys who were victims of child abuse years earlier and how both of their lives were affected. Director Gregg Araki adapted the novel and pieced this film together in such a manner that the viewer can truly understand the past that connects the two boys. Yet “Mysterious Skin” it is not a film with a happy ending; it is dark, emotional, full of suspense and drama and packs quite a punch – it’s quite difficult to watch once, let alone a second time. By the time the credits start to roll, we finally know the entire truth of what happened. But instead of resolution, we are left hanging in the horror and awkwardness of the film and are forced to resolve our own feelings towards the difficult subject matter. In short, it’s brilliant – albeit troubling – and a film I highly recommend watching!
Michael Pierson (Aidan Quinn), a young gay man and professional attorney, is struck with AIDS in the prime of his life. Having never even come out to his family, he finds himself in the unenviable position of dropping two bombshells on them. He must come to terms with the inevitability of his premature death while trying to maintain his relationships with family members who harbor fears, resentments, and denial.
Airing on network television during the height of the original AIDS epidemic, “An Early Frost” was many people’s first look at an AIDS victim as a human being rather than a statistic. In fact, it was the first feature film about AIDS made for TV or theatrical release – although it has been overshadowed by other more recent films with similar storylines.
And what a powerful film! I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, as “An Early Frost” had completely skipped my attention until I started searching for queer drama films for this month’s post. With a slightly choppy plot, awkward ending, and a general lack of affection between Michael and Peter (primarily due to network censors who absolutely refused to let the two men kiss and they couldn’t even be seen in the same bed together…), it would be very easy to dismiss this queer drama film and find something else to watch. But I strongly encourage you to find yourself a copy and watch this film about acceptance – both of Michael’s family accepting him for being gay & dying of AIDS, but also how Michael himself struggles to accept his new reality. If you enjoyed “Philadelphia” or are also a fan of another similar AIDS film, “Our Sons”, then this is one you truly need to add to your watch list!
Watch “An Early Frost” on Amazon.
So what did you think – do you agree with these five Queer Drama Films? Have you seen all of them yet? If so, let me know which one was your favourite. And if you haven’t watched them all yet, I highly encourage you to add these Queer Drama Films to your watch list ASAP!