Brokeback Mountain
Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway
Directed By:
Ang Lee

Brokeback Mountain could possibly be labeled as a homosexual love story, but to do so would be to sell the movie short. While there is a strong relationship between the two men, it's tempered by the fact that they must keep it to themselves for fear that it will cost them their lives. Brokeback Mountain explores both their lives and their growth in the society that is obviously against what they share.

The movie begins with Ennis (Ledger) and Jack (Gyllenhaal) taking on jobs as sheep herders up on Brokeback Mountain for a shifty employer. As they watch after the sheep, one taking care of the camp and the other tending watch, the two young men get to know each other. It is here where we start to get a sense of the character of the two men. Ennis is a quiet introvert who can become violent when he loses control of his temper, while Jack is brash and emotional, a bit careless. One cold night, the two men get drunk and find themselves in a moment of passion. Try as them may to write the incident off, they continue to grow close emotionally. Once their time on Brokeback is over, they go their separate ways.

During this time, both men find their separate paths. Both end up getting married - one to his sweetheart and the other to the daughter of a combine salesman. Through a chance piece of mail, the two men reunite and rekindle their relationship with the occasional trip back to Brokeback Mountain. Over the years, viewers watch as their lives move back a forth, between high and low points.

I can easily see why this movie has gotten a lot of awards and Oscar nominations, especially when it comes to the acting. Both main roles are unique and challenging roles. Older and more established actors might have shied from the roles, but both seem to be the kind of role that would set Ledge and Gyllenhaal out from their previous performances. In fact, Ledger's performance proves he can do more than sly pretty-boy. The secondary cast, including Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway as the men's wives are both excellent in supporting roles and it was nice to see Randy Quaid in a serious role.

Ang Lee's direction is excellent. Sequences are filmed with methodical care and just about every scene caries a certain weight to the overall story. There are a number of scenes that don't provide story elements, but do paint a wonderful image of the time and location. But, this direction doesn't glorify the locale - it works hard to present it as faithfully as possible. To further this goal, sets, locations and costumes are quite specific to the timeperiods and locations without being blatantly obvious about it.

Anyone who writes this movie off as a homosexual love story really misses the core of the tale - how a forbidden relationship is handled in a society that is violently opposed to it. The reactions and interactions of the characters drive home the effect of the events. While I've never been one to buy into the Oscar hype, I would say that Brokeback Mountain really is quite an excellent story. If you can deal with the subject matter, you'll enjoy the story.

- - Vane

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