Brokeback Mountain

Dir: Ang Lee, 2005. Starring: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway, Randy Quaid. Gay Cinema.
Brokeback Mountain

When you find yourself a fan of a certain actor or filmmaker, isn't it great when you're actually alive at the turning point in their careers? Sounds like a simple and/or silly statement but I, for one, seem to come across the majority of filmmakers and stars late in their careers or after their deaths, which makes accessing their movies a real pain sometimes. When it comes to Ang Lee, I was always impressed by his universal characters and themes. Eat Drink Man Woman is one of the strongest dark comedies from East Asia that I've seen in a while. Likewise, I'd been following the careers of Ledger (Monster's Ball, The Dark Knight) and Williams (Dawson's Creek, Blue Valentine) for some time. The news of them acting in the same film was very exciting, as was the addition of Gyllenhaal and Hathaway, both of whom I'd seen around, but not enough of. When I discovered that the plot circulated two gay lovers, I was a little reluctant. I'd seen The Wedding Banquet, another of Lee's films with a gay theme, and thought that it would be similar. Not that the mentioned film is a bad one, but its execution was very exclusive to a gay male audience, and people who enjoy your typical drama. Most dramas don't exactly move me. In the very least, I think it helps to have been in a similar situation with the characters in the film. Regardless of my feelings, Lee is a director that I like, so I went to see Brokeback Mountain on its opening weekend. From start to finish, I was transfixed and truly unprepared for the experience.

Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) are two strangers looking for work. Ennis is a ranch hand and young Jack is a rodeo enthusiast who rides occasionally. Though both have little to no experience with jobs of great complexity, they meet for the first time and find themselves accepting a job herding sheep across a mountain. Their boss Joe Aguirre (Randy Quaid) has little patience with his new employees and gives them a little rundown before sending them off to a task that will stretch across several seasons. The two men are exact opposites and find it difficult to relate. Ennis is reserved, quiet, and practical. His only interest is getting the job done well and returning home to his fiance. Jack is loudmouthed and chatty, and certainly more friendly than Ennis. This part of the film is considerably slower, taking its time to reveal the mountain terrain of Wyoming. That calm is disrupted when the food rations they collect, which consist mainly of beans and soup, grow tiresome, and the weather changes from summer to fall, then a harsh winter. The two men socialize, but don't exactly grow close; eventually the job requires that they distance themselves and watch over the mass herd from different areas. One night they decide to stay together on the camp and end up having sex. The morning after brings about denial and mixed feelings between them, but regardless, a bittersweet romance ensues. At the end of their job, the two part on bad terms and try to go about their lives.

Ennis marries his fiance Alma (Michelle Williams), and Jack takes up the rodeo again and meets Lureen (Anne Hathaway). Each begins a family and settles into their new responsibilities. You see each man happy with their current relationships and excited about the future. Years pass, children are born, and that excitement dwindles into habit and duty, causing Jack to grow restless and search for Ennis. He sends a postcard and invites him to go on a fishing trip on Brokeback Mountain. Ennis agrees without haste, and their romance is rekindled in secrecy. With the distance between them and families they must provide for, the two continue meeting a few times a year. Meanwhile, their marriages are slowly destroyed and their anxiety about being found out becomes too much to bear. This continues for just under 20 years, until suspicions reach a high point and tragedy strikes.

What impressed me the most about this movie is that it was about a gay relationship, but had little to do with homosexuality. The story is more about marriage, fatherhood, close-minded societies, and loneliness than it is about their relationship. Ennis and Jack are two people who bonded and grew close, and that led to a sexual relationship. Jack's character is portrayed as more of a closeted homosexual, but Ennis seems confused and frustrated with his relationship with Jack; he's the only man Ennis has ever been with or wants to be with, while Jack grows to accept that fact that he's gay. The key point is that both know that their society is more than anti-gay, and Ennis specifically remembers an instance in his childhood where two gay lovers were killed once their secret was known. You could execute this fear and anxiety with so many cultures and races that despise anything unorthodox in terms of marriage, and that's what makes the film unique. Lovers from different social standings, cultural differences, religions, and ethnicities were at one point met with the same hostility, and while it has lessened over the years, it still remains. After seeing the film many times, I marvel at how much I don't even pay attention to their relationship; rather, I feel the tension coming from their marriages and societies and I have a difficult time deciding what I would do if I were in their shoes, based on how I was raised and my society. The movie also features great costume design, music and, of course, cinematography. Like real life, there are no simple answers and no fairytale resolutions, which for me, makes up the perfect drama. Highly Recommended.


Brokeback Mountain won three Oscars for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score. It was nominated for an additional five Oscars: Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Actor (Heath Ledger), Best Supporting Actor (Jake Gyllenhaal), Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams).

Posted by:
Edythe Smith
Mar 9, 2011 5:04pm
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