On-Screen Gay Couples Are Destined For An Unhappy Ending This Year

Stranger by the Lake

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?

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  • stranded

    OMG, i was just bitching about this yesterday. I love queer cinema from around the world, but it’s basically the same movie. 1 guy is quirky or sensitive, he meets a mysterious gorgeous guy. Sometimes he’s a prostitute or a drug addict or straight. They get involved, fall in love. The mysterious guy is too messed up and ALWAYS dies. The sensitive guy is left alone. It’s so fucking annoying. Maybe because i’m so used american movies with happy endings. I feel like only comedies end with the couple staying together. Don’t get me started on gay comedies though, they’re usually the worst.

  • CoolBeansandChili

    It’s about time for a happy ending. At least an ending where everyone comes out on the other side alive and happy, even if true love wasn’t found.
    But, it’s gonna take some out-of-this-world writing and acting to make it worthy of critical acclaim.

  • redcarpet

    We do need happy endings, because I don’t watch dramas. Maybe that makes me a uncultured rube, but I don’t want to cry when I watch a movie. I watch movies for escape and fun.

    I’d like to see less “queer film” and more mainstream cinema that has LEAD charecters that happen to also be gay. When we have a gay Thor or Twilight, we will know we have arrived.

  • Elloreigh

    “So with such rich representations of gay relationships in film, do we need a happy ending?”

    Yes, we do need a happy ending now and then. Not every movie has to move us emotionally or stimulate us intellectually. Sometimes we just need a fun or silly escape from reality for a few hours to let us catch our breath.

    There’s certainly nothing wrong with “rich representations of gay relationships in film”. Nothing wrong with “happy endings”, either. Better still when the two come together.

    Which is not to say that I always desire a happy ending. But I think we deserve them as much as anyone else. What I really want is a full range of options from which to select, depending on my mood.

  • Elloreigh

    @stranded: This made me chuckle: “1 guy is quirky or sensitive, he meets a mysterious gorgeous guy. Sometimes he’s a prostitute or a drug addict or straight. They get involved, fall in love. The mysterious guy is too messed up and ALWAYS dies. The sensitive guy is left alone.”

    That’s a pretty good description of what I’m finding really boring right now myself – all these characters with really messed up lives. I don’t find it interesting so much as unrelatable.

    As much as people like to escape from their reality, they also like to see their own lives reflected in entertainment. As “midwestern” suburbanite, it seems like I almost never see that. It seems like it’s either all urban settings, or quaint rural settings.

    I hear what you’re saying about gay comedies, too. Heaven knows I like silliness. But it feels like the definition of gay comedy has become a reliance on tired stereotypes and raunch. Not that these can’t be fun, too – but I don’t want a steady diet of it.

  • Sammy Schlipshit

    @stranded: Ya just gotta watch Keep the Lights On.

  • Sammy Schlipshit


    All of the previous commentators….watch the best film I have seen in a while….Keep the Lights On.

    OK, a comedy it ain’t(there are a few funny bits)…but it’s a helluva good story with superb acting/writing…..and it does have a happy ending of sorts.

  • Jonty Coppersmith

    Life doesn’t always offer a happy ending, but sometimes it does; and those are the stories I want to watch in movies. They just don’t make ’em like Beautiful Thing and Big Eden anymore it seems.

  • MK Ultra

    IMO, Gay cinema needs to step outside the tiny, tiny box they’re currently. True, life isn’t always a fairy tale happy ending sort of deal. But it’s also not a depressing tragedy with a sad ending all the time either. For me anyways, the sad/tragic trope is so overdone in gay cinema.

  • viveutvivas

    The problem with happy endings is that they are not very interesting. Tolstoy had it right: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” There is a reason all the rom-coms out of Hollywood are such absolute crap and you have to go to indies or foreign films to see anything worth your while. Real life doesn’t usually work out all roses, and I’d rather see something relatable.

  • Sammy Schlipshit

    @viveutvivas: As I have been telling everyone on this site….watch Keep The Light ON….it’s an indie of sorts…you’ll like it, promise.

  • Sammy Schlipshit

    @MK Ultra: Got just what you are looking for…..Keep The Light On…’s out of the box with a mixed ending.
    Check it out.

  • Mical

    I can think of several Indie films with happy endings. True they are not major motion pictures, but they provide the feel good conclusions. Try out Latter Days, Men To Kiss, From Beginning To End, etc.

  • Elloreigh

    @viveutvivas: Does relatable have to mean unhappy? I think it’s possible for a film to have the happy ending without it having to be all rosy. Sometimes the happy part is surviving the crap of life with one’s sense of humor and relationship intact.

    My life right now is a happy ending of sorts. I found my man and we live a relatively comfortable life. But there’s crap we have to deal with too – like having no legal recognition whatsoever of our relationship in our state. Stuff like family members who avoid us. Events like each of us losing our fathers.

    I guess what relating is not so much about happy endings, but having a happy life despite the bumps in the road. Thing is, movies have an ending, whereas life goes on (until it doesn’t anymore) Why not end a movie on a high note now and then?

  • Elloreigh

    @MK Ultra: I couldn’t agree more – well said!

  • mz.sam

    @Mical: Thanks for those films. I’ve seen the two out of three and I think they’re pretty special.

  • Thad1527

    There’s always Big Eden if you just want to feel good.

  • Dev.C

    Hahaha It’s taken everyone this long to realize they’re all the same movie. Gay love in cinema has become a tragic stereotype and it never changes because we as a society accept this style of storytelling.

  • Sammy Schlipshit

    @Dev.C: Got just the one for you that’s different…..Keep The Light On.

    Check it out!

  • Sammy Schlipshit

    @Elloreigh: This is a movie that moves through multiple years of two guys relationship that doesn’t end with all be rosy or depressing.

    It ends with a common sense resolution…..

    Keep The Light On…..check it out.

  • stranded

    @Sammy Schlipshit:

    I feel like you’re recommending a movie, but what was the title again? LOL! I saw the preview for Keep The Lights On, it looked like one of those movies i mentioned earlier, so i didn’t bother. Maybe i’ll check it out.

    @ Jonty Coppersmith
    Dude, i totally agree, Beautiful Things is so awesome.

  • Sammy Schlipshit

    @stranded: OK, I’m a bit repetitive but when I come across a film this different and this good, I just can’t shut up.
    The actors are first rate….both are accomplished but I did develop a crush on the Danish guy. Too bad I never attracted such a man during my glory years.

    If you aren’t sure about just buying it from Wolfe Films, get it from Netflix.

    Get back to me after you have watched it….would like to know your opinion.
    Carry on.

  • Kangol

    @Sammy Schlipshit:

    Are you one of the film’s producers, or the director, or the ex-boyfriend, who allegedly was a crack addict and literary agent, and who wrote the highly regarded memoir the film is based on?

    Just wondering, because you’re really pushing this film pretty hard. I think we get that you like the film. But you’re almost posting ads on the site.

  • guest4ever

    Is there gay cinema in the kingdom of Heaven?

    Probably not.

  • Sammy Schlipshit

    None of the above.

    I just want to spread the word and celebrate when I see a movie of this caliber.

    I watch a lot of movies so anything out of the norm is worth sharing.

    OK, it might also have a little to do with my crush on the Danish guy…watch it, you’ll see.

  • Sammy Schlipshit


    Are you delusional?

    First of all, there is no heaven…or hell…or angels…or any form of a ‘god’.

    With that settled, don’t you think any ‘deity’ that goes to all the trouble to see that we wonderful GLBTQ folks exist at all wouldn’t want to cater to our needs?

  • Angry Kittens

    Well, you apparently missed seeing Marco Berger’s Hawaii (2013). And if you haven’t seen it, go see Plan B as well. Both are, hands down, the best depictions of two men falling in love EVER. No drug addicts, no psychopaths, no one gets killed.

    And yes. We do need happy endings. I HATE the fact that gay movies always end in tragedies or something shocking. It just goes to show how pretentious and artsy most gay film-makers are.

    They seem to have delusions of being Warhol or something. Not realizing that by trying to be the next Warhol, they’ve completely missed the point of Warhol’s work in the first place. I have a feeling that most of these directors are bitter old queens as well.

    These days, the only gay movies I watch are those with happy endings or at least aren’t apocalyptically depressing. I skip everything else and just read the synopsis on Wikipedia (while rolling my eyes). The fact that they keep getting awards also just shows that most of the critics who give them are probably clueless straight people moved to pity when everyone dies at the end.

    Tragedy is easy to make. Happy endings that don’t seem forced, require effort.

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