Brokeback Mountain (15)

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Romance

Brokeback Mountain

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Time Out says

Tue Dec 20 2005

Ang Lee’s adaptation of an Annie Proulx short story arrives amid much chatter from awards-season soothsayers and pundits who have slapped the easy tag of ‘gay cowboy movie’ on this sensitive, intelligent and pleasingly traditional film. Certainly its two male protagonists, Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger), two free-and-easy 19-year-olds, tend sheep together in rural Wyoming. They favour denim, live close to the land and enjoy – briefly – a loving, sexual relationship.

But there’s little in this film to excite either John Wayne fans or devotees of Warhol’s ‘Lonesome Cowboys’. Instead, the film’s themes of forbidden love, lost opportunity, marital deception and romantic honesty are quite accessible, mainstream even. The revolution is all off-screen: what ultimately makes ‘Brokeback Mountain’ a radical project is that it’s set to become the first bona fide, well-made and commercially successful gay weepie to emerge from Hollywood.

Jack and Ennis meet on a Wyoming mountainside one summer when both are employed to watch over the flock of a local farm baron (Randy Quaid). Lee indulges wide shots of flowing rivers, travelling sheep, wispy clouds and mountain vistas to canonise the pair’s experience on Brokeback Mountain. He threatens to over-sweeten us with the shallow beauty of a Marlboro commercial or Wrangler advert until, one night on the mountain, a drunken Ennis spits on his hand, turns Jack over and lights the fuse on an on-off love affair that will stretch painfully over two decades but never escape the macho strictures of the rural worlds to which they belong. Both marry; both have kids; both meet occasionally over 20 years for the odd tryst disguised as a fishing trip. For Jack and Ennis, Brokeback Mountain is more than a place; it’s a symbol of what could have been, a state of mind, an unattainable nirvana.

‘Brokeback got us good,’ sighs Jack to Ennis as their strained friendship floats through the years, forever secret, barely defined, hardly spoken. Always taking his cue from Proulx’s original story (a marvel of epic economy), Lee and his screenwriters Larry McMurty (‘The Last Picture Show’) and Diana Ossana present just enough of the pair’s married, post-Brokeback lives to remind us of the conservative and traditional nature of their domestic lives.

But what makes ‘Brokeback Mountain’ more interesting than a well-meaning time capsule of period values are the subtle differences in character that Lee carves between Jack and Ennis. Jack is more exuberant, more romantic, a dreamer who rides the rodeo and hatches impossible plans for him and Ennis to live together. Ennis is a puritan, unadventurous and afraid of himself; he takes solace in violence, holds back emotionally and creates excuses for the stagnation that defines his life. The film is Ennis’s tragedy; it becomes painfully obvious that he left his soul on Brokeback Mountain. It’s a tough act to witness and one that Heath Ledger handles superbly, delivering an increasingly sad, mumbling and desperate performance that smacks of loneliness and alienation. And all because the boy loves the boy but barely knows what such love means, let alone possesses the tools with which to act on it.

What we have here is acutely calibrated storytelling. Nothing is wasted. The pacing is calm, the mood sombre, and the adaptation is both respectful and imaginative. Lee retains the taut ease of Proulx’s prose, allowing him to cover a long period of time (about 20 years) without lessening the tragedy at the heart of the tale or offering episodic biographies. Very little is added to Proulx’s story; the film’s screenwriters take smart inspiration from a line here or a comment there, spinning them into well-placed new scenes.

‘Brokeback Mountain’ deserves all the awards and acclaim that it’s bound to gather in the next couple of months. It’s painful stuff, moving and intelligent. Lee has taken a story of gay love and placed it where it should be – in the mainstream. He’s delivered a beautifully crafted film to boot.

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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Fri Jan 6, 2006

Duration:

134 mins

Cinemas showing Brokeback Mountain

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Prince Charles Cinema

7 Leicester Place, London, WC2H 7BP Show map/details

  • Address:

    Prince Charles Cinema 7 Leicester Place
    London
    WC2H 7BP

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  • Tue Jul 15:

    • 20:40

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5
LiveReviews|15
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Marcus

The theme of Brokeback Mountain, as expressed by Annie Proulx, is one of rural homophobia in America, and its effects. As such, whether or not Jack died (and his death is ambiguous--was it a beating, or was it a tire rim to the jaw?), Ennis' tragedy stems from the effect of rural homophobia on his psyche. Why the film is so affecting is directly related to the specific tragedy of Ennis, and his refusal to acknowledge his feelings for another man. I read yduric's review and respect his right to his own opinion, which I feel reflects his own feelings towards hetero society in general, rather than the reality of Brokeback. The film is multi-faceted, its themese multi-layered, and so the varying opinions on its intent and effect speak to its ultimate success as a film of enduring quality and scope. Each time I have watched it, I grasp something new. Beautiful, horrifying, tragic, relentless, human, realistic. It will endure.

Marcus

The theme of Brokeback Mountain, as expressed by Annie Proulx, is one of rural homophobia in America, and its effects. As such, whether or not Jack died (and his death is ambiguous--was it a beating, or was it a tire rim to the jaw?), Ennis' tragedy stems from the effect of rural homophobia on his psyche. Why the film is so affecting is directly related to the specific tragedy of Ennis, and his refusal to acknowledge his feelings for another man. I read yduric's review and respect his right to his own opinion, which I feel reflects his own feelings towards hetero society in general, rather than the reality of Brokeback. The film is multi-faceted, its themese multi-layered, and so the varying opinions on its intent and effect speak to its ultimate success as a film of enduring quality and scope. Each time I have watched it, I grasp something new. Beautiful, horrifying, tragic, relentless, human, realistic. It will endure.

Catty

Really fabulous film, I take ydurics point but don't really agree with it, the film was amazing and heartbreaking. Aside from the great acting and storyline, the cinematography (of the wild especially) was beautiful.

Catty

Really fabulous film, I take ydurics point but don't really agree with it, the film was amazing and heartbreaking. Aside from the great acting and storyline, the cinematography (of the wild especially) was beautiful.

denise lewis

i have just seen the film on tele for the first time 2008 omg why did i never buy this it is beautiful and im so moved buy it .its by far the best film i have ever seen the power of the love between them is portraied brilliantly and so sad that society of what should be gets in the way of there true happiness together. its a tribute to heaths talent they were so the best actors for the parts.i now have the film the soundtrack and the memorey of the impact this has had on me.

denise lewis

i have just seen the film on tele for the first time 2008 omg why did i never buy this it is beautiful and im so moved buy it .its by far the best film i have ever seen the power of the love between them is portraied brilliantly and so sad that society of what should be gets in the way of there true happiness together. its a tribute to heaths talent they were so the best actors for the parts.i now have the film the soundtrack and the memorey of the impact this has had on me.

Filio

I really liked that movie for two reasons... 1.It isn't another boring love story about a boy and a girl but, a story of the true love of two men 2. It idicates that true love can be found anywhere...That's really touching!

Filio

I really liked that movie for two reasons... 1.It isn't another boring love story about a boy and a girl but, a story of the true love of two men 2. It idicates that true love can be found anywhere...That's really touching!

yduric

Brokeback Mountain' is a film that left me with a very sour taste in my mouth.I have to admit that I was at first moved by it, probably influenced by the hype surrounding it. However... I would like to add a discordant voice here and point out something (at least it seems to me) few people paid attention to: I am convinced, after having thought about it a long time, that its great success and high rating is due to its tragic ending, an ending that adds a 'virtuous' note to the film. The question is: if Ang Lee had slightly 'deviated' from Anne Proulx's short story and put a less tragic ending, would the film have been so highly praised? The answer is, I am sure: NO, because the 'sacrifice' of one of the gay characters is what a great part of the audience unconsciously demanded, in order to make the subject matter more acceptable.And this is what fills me with some kind of nausea, and makes me think that this film is not as 'gay-friendly' as it seems. Moreover, if we compare 'Brokeback Mountain' to the (in my opinion) far superior 'Mysterious Skin' (whose director was , by the way, nominated for best director alongside Ang Lee at the Independent Spirit Awards) things become very clear: despite its much harder subject, the latter does NOT end tragically, which would be considered a 'major sin' by many viewers, and this is why some courageous films do not stand a single chance against the disguised homophobic weepie I just reviewed.

Sarah Jane

OMG, this movie is brilliant! Even my mother said so, and she can be VERY critical when it comes to movies. A friend of mine described it as "just another love story", but I think it is sooooo much more than that. It is also about how both Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis (Heath Ledger) have to keep their love a secret not just from their wives and children, but also from society. A must-see movie.

Sarah Jane

OMG, this movie is brilliant! Even my mother said so, and she can be VERY critical when it comes to movies. A friend of mine described it as "just another love story", but I think it is sooooo much more than that. It is also about how both Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis (Heath Ledger) have to keep their love a secret not just from their wives and children, but also from society. A must-see movie.