NOTE: This review was written for and published on my former Blogger.com site, using my old rating scale. I have kept this review as was published.
This film had been on my radar for a while now, as I was not only interested in the subject matter but enjoy the works of both James Franco and Zachary Quinto. I finally had the chance to sit down and watch this film and interestingly, it was a hard film to watch. Not because the filming, acting, or other elements are bad – the subject matter is what make it a challenge. IMDB readers gave this a 5.7/10 – I would give it a solid 8/10 myself.
The story of “I Am Michael” is about Michael Glatze (James Franco), a very active gay activist who renounced his homosexuality and became a Christian pastor. Throughout the film we get a glimpse into his life living in San Francisco with his boyfriend Bennet (Zachary Quinto) as one of the editors of XY magazine, in addition to many other speaking engagements. After a move to Halifax (and adding a third lover into their relationship), a medical scare thrusts the previously assumed atheist into questioning “where we go when we die.” Suddenly, we watch as he turns towards the Bible and delves into Christianity, Buddhism, and even Mormonism. Throughout this solitary path he undertakes, his relationship with Bennet and Tyler suffers and before long he leaves them both to explore who he is. He finally settles in Wyoming studying to become a pastor to continue helping others, where he meets Rebekah whom later becomes his girlfriend and fiancée.
Before getting further into the nitty, grittiness of this film, the acting was incredible by all those involved and was filmed beautifully. You can truly understand how the writers are trying to show and understand Michael as his story comes to life on screen. Yet, there is a almost an ambiguity overshadowing the film – others describe it in that the director, Justin Kelly, refused to take a side in the matter and instead, allows the film to simply exist. We witness Michael’s change and transitions, and Franco is full committed to portraying that without bias. Yet the film ends with us unsure of where things will continue, especially after Michael tells Bennet over the phone towards the end that “we are always changing, evolving – and I’m open to that.” Michael, as we witness throughout the film, decides his own path and will go wherever that leads. When the credits start to roll, we don’t get the impression that this was a good thing for Michael – but neither do we get the impression that this was bad. It simply is.
For me personally, the film was tough to watch because I have gone on a similar questioning path in my life – except mine was starting from Catholicism, realizing that I was not welcome in the Church as a homosexual (after finally admitting to myself that that is who I am), and my search went into other directions. I have looked into other religions with the same open mind and open heart that Franco’s Michael demonstrates. I have read the Bible and other religious works, I’ve delved deeply into other faiths in order to find the right path for me. I’ve undergone the struggle that the film not only displays but draws the viewer into understanding. Heck, right off the bat hit a tender spot in that it begins with the death of Matthew Shepard, a situation that truly hits home for me and where I was personally at the time of that tragedy.
We are all different and unique, and as such, we must find our own paths. Treading the deep waters where faith and religion meet is NOT an easy task for anyone to successfully wade through, and many truly do get lost amid the strife and confusion. For me, watching Michael head down the path he chose was sad. Yet, I wouldn’t demonize him for his choices. Nor does the film. Interestingly, Michael Glatze appears to support the film as well. And in that regards, this is a great film worth watching.