Star-Crossed Lovers But, You Know, Without All the Dying

Last night I attended a screening of the film Latter Days, with an open panel discussion following. I'd seen the film before and enjoyed it; unlike a lot of queer films, this one doesn't play coming out with kid gloves: it hurts. It's hard to watch. It's an outrage. And the characters aren't easily likeable, I think, either. The summarize the plot, the film chronicles the interactions of Aaron, a "good" Mormon on his mission and Christian, a shallow gay whore. Romance ensues.

The ensuing discussion was led by a four-member panel: a young gay man who'd been raised Mormon, an actor, another young gay man who'd been raised in the religious deep South, and a "post-Mormon feminist intellectual" raised in a half-Mormon/half-non-Mormon family. The audience participated.

I have a complicated relationship to this film. Without too many spoilers, it's beautiful and disappointing; it struggles with enormous societal issues but sugar coats its ending; it polarizes these star-crossed lovers but creates for them a level playing field.

And you can see, even as I write this, that I can't quite make up my mind about it.

What the film does well is offer a peek into many secretive aspects of the Mormon tradition. And, I suppose, if you're Mormon, it confirms a lot of your fears about the gay tradition. The performance by the actor who plays the gay Mormon really does save this film from mediocrity, and a cameo by Mary Kay Place as he conflicted mother nearly steals the show. And that's is hard to do in a film that has a fully nude man-on-man sex scene.

In the end, though, I think Latter Days is able to transcend a lot of the Hollywood conventions that it relies on. The lovers find love, yes, but the ending isn't quite as easy or neat as most audiences would like it to be. It's a complicated film. It reminds us that when it comes to love, there are never easy answers.


  1. I saw Latter Days for the first time last week and feel about the same. I did think Aaron's character was very, very well-drawn:the one perfect thing in the film. And I bawled, like I haven't in a long time: not for the characters, but for the fact of all gay kids having to come out to their families and friends, no matter their views. To feel for even a second that this might be anything from an embarrassment to the biggest disappointment of their lives. I felt a little of that yesterday seeing all these generally politically-cool poet people posting at Reb Livingston's blog about how her son is going to be a lady-killer, how she should act when he first tells her he likes a girl, etc. It's, like, the best (and most "natural") compliment a cute baby can receive.

  2. I saw LD in the theaters, with my gay brother. We were both raised Mormon, though our parents were the kind of Mormons who never went to church, smoked weed, and cursed. So, not a strict house.

    I loved LD when I saw it then, and again with my bf. I think I don't mind the sugar-coated ending so much because of all the grit in the middle. And I like that this ending is a bit fantasized: the movie shows what can be true, instead of what typically is true.... It's almost a dream of an ending.

    And I loved Amber Benson and Jacquelyn Bissett in the movie as well!

  3. I saw Latter Days a few months ago. I liked parts of it, but in the end, I didn't like the ending. Yes, dreamlike etc. but lacking, somehow. Like Em, I was a little saddened by the movie because it does speak so well to the fact kids still have to go through hell simply because they are gay.

    I think the only movie I have ever seen that tackled gay issues and was a feel-good movie AND seemed somewhat realistic is the movie Beautiful Thing.

  4. Thanks for the tip on the movie. We will have to see it or rent the DVD. Dean is a former Mormon (that is one creepy homophobic religion), and I am sure he would find it fascinating.