05 November 2012
As far as I understand it, this is Jon Garcia's second film. Although he is not Mormon himself, a good friend from Idaho shared his story and Garcia related a lot to it. It was that story that inspired this film.
Being raised in a typical Mormon home in Idaho, RJ leaves for his full-time mission in Oregon where he and his companion, Elder Harris seek out those that may hear the message of their faith. As they work through the good and bad experiences of an LDS mission, they find themselves falling into a forbidden love for one another.
I really enjoyed the film's raw feel. I felt it was really pretty accurate as far as mission life is concerned- not perfect, but more real than other depictions I have seen. I found myself having flashbacks to my own mission. The characters were at first, awkward. I found that I interpreted that quirkiness as amateur acting until I sort of found myself really liking the little oddities of each of the characters. My skepticism disappeared as I got to know the characters better.
The film spends a lot of time on life as missionary companions before it begins to explore the love story. I enjoy slower paced, thoughtful films and so I enjoyed the pace of this one. I was a pretty straight-arrow kid and it would have been much harder to imagine two elders getting romantically involved if it hadn't spent time on developing their relationship as companions.
The film definitely did not have an agenda. I was expecting some snarky commentary on the Mormon Church, but the film did a really amazing job at being really pretty fair. I don't feel the Church was demonized in any way. In fact, if anything it was more accurate at depicting the Church than it was at depicting a gay Mormon's experience within the Church.
I don't mean to say that it favored the Church or it's position on gay issues, but I feel that it didn't do complete justice to the magnitude of the contradiction that is a gay Mormon. The costs didn't seem as high in the film as they are in real life. The internal struggle wasn't as tangible.
In the last part of the film, RJ speaks with his Stake President. This was a really really great moment. It was very moving. In someways I put myself into RJ and allowed him to say what I wish I could have said. It also brought back memories of the feelings of betrayal and neglect that I felt as I came to accept myself for who I am. It was a bittersweet moment of the film that will stay vividly in my mind.
I'd love to discuss more because I think there is a very interesting exchange between the two companions that I feel is very real in the Gay-Mormon community having to do with self-righteous validation, but I don't want to give away too much of the film. So watch for it in the coming months- especially you indie-film lovers.
Posted by Jonathan Adamson at 10:18 PM