Love is not a many splendored thing for gay couples in film this year, notes IndieWire’s Peter Knegt. In fact, it’s more like a many splintered thing that cuts deep leading to both emotional and physical scars. Good times. In a year where marriage equality has swept the nation and the world, the gays still can’t get a happily ever after.
Knegt ponders “Why 2013 Has Been a Pretty Harsh Year for Cinematic Same-Sex Couples” by analyzing seven of the biggest and best queer offerings to hit theaters and festivals:
Blue Is the Warmest Color, Stranger by the Lake, Tom at the Farm, Vic and Flo Saw a Bear, Kill Your Darlings, Behind the Candelabra, and Concussion.
Each features a tumultuous relationship at its core that ends sadly, tragically or ultimately in prison for crystal meth. Rom-coms these are not. Instead, they’re cerebral, indie dramas that were met, for the most part, with critical acclaim. But where is the great gay romantic comedy? And if anyone tries to sell me on Trick again I’ll go blind from rolling my eyes.
Perhaps this crop of queer filmmakers is more interested in what can go wrong than what can go right in same-sex relationships since it makes for dynamic storytelling. The fact that these are same-sex relationships, however, is secondary to the plot. Knegt concludes by reasoning that the couples in the films don’t fall apart because of the characters’ sexual orientations, but rather due to the characters’ complexities:
The interesting thing about these seven films collectively is that while they each offer examples of doomed romances, none of them are particularly focused on a “forbidden love” derived from the fact that the characters are gay or lesbian (a significant tradition in film depicting queer folks). There’s certainly moments of sexual identity crises in the films, and in respect to historical biopics like Kill Your Darlings and Behind the Candelabra, the characters reasonably are at least semi-closeted due to the social constraints of the times. But these films are not at their core about being gay or lesbian. They are all studies of human relationships, and of human existence and its many dualities. One of which is that love — no matter how it begins — is often not meant for the alter [sic].
So with such rich representations of gay relationships in film, do we need a happy ending?