Watch the trailer (at apple.com).
I have been told that I'm dead inside because I rarely cry during movies, even when a friend is sitting next to me while drying her eyes and sniffling into a used Kleenex. I can't remember the last time I've shed a tear. I'm moved, sure, but moved to the point of tears? Not likely. That is until I saw Brokeback Mountain. This movie just about broke my heart.
Talkative Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and taciturn Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) are two young cowboys who meet working as sheep ranchers one summer (in 1963 to be exact) up in Brokeback Mountain in Wyoming. The two fall into an easy friendship that soon turns into something else. I know, it sounds boring. Two cowboys up in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming: blah blah blah. But it's anything but. I couldn't tear my eyes off the screen for its entire two hour and 14 minute run time.
I would love to write about the story in depth, but I think that would ruin the film. Besides, I really wished they hadn't already revealed the relationship between the two in the trailers. Instead of looking at the film simply as a love story, it will be dubbed a "gay movie". The marketing team should have hidden the affair and have let people decide for themselves what kind of movie they thought it was.
Now there will be whole sections of potential audiences who will avoid Brokeback Mountain, and consequently, they will have missed out on one the best, most beautiful love stories I have ever seen unfold on screen. And I think that is exactly how the film should be viewed -- as a poignantly touching and moving story about love and longing. It really doesn't matter who's doing the loving and what their gender is.
Okay, okay, it matters a little as that fact affects the characters and their behavior and heavily influences their choices, but other than that, it doesn't matter. Not when it comes down to the emotional soul of the movie. And Brokeback Mountain has some serious soul. This can best be seen through Ennis.
Honestly, the man says like four words the entire film (that may be an exaggeration) but he expresses a world of emotion through his actions. Ledger delivers an award-winning performance as a repressed, emotionally-inept, hard man who barely scrapes by a brutal existence in the heartland; don't be surprised if Ledger goes home with an Oscar. This is not to say that Gyllenhaal's character is an emotional idiot. Jack is every bit as young and effervescent and brimming with (delusional) hope as Ennis is practical and ancient. It's like Jack is a puppy and Ennis is an aging dog in its twilight years. The two have AMAZING chemistry and are perfect compliments. Props to the casting agent and director Ang Lee (The Ice Storm, Eat Drink Man Woman).
Lee's skills shine in this film, which I believe is his best work to date. If the story doesn't have you in its clutches, the stunning shots of the Wyoming landscape will. The movie is in many ways a study in contrasts. The liberating beauty of the mountains versus the stifling ruin of crumbling apartments. The comfort and safety of marriage versus the passion and loyalty found in an affair. The turbulence of silence versus the emptiness of a conversation.
Brokeback Mountain is based on a short story written by Annie Proulx (The Shipping News) that first appeared in The New Yorker magazine. I haven't yet read the eight page story but I wonder how faithful the adaptation was. I have a hunch it was done just right, because to me Brokeback Mountain was perfect.