Now Reading
10 gay films that were amazing in 2014

10 gay films that were amazing in 2014

Where does Pride come on our countdown of the best LGBTI films of 2014?

What constitutes a gay movie? What constitutes a queer movie? Should a film starring a straight man, directed by a straight man, be defined as either?

What about a film starring a straight man as a trans woman? Do films about gay men matter to lesbians, and vice versa? And, perhaps most crucially, is a film featuring homosexual characters, that shies away from same-sex sex, intended for anything but heterosexual consumption?

The fact is, if we spend too much time debating such questions, the films that provoke them in the first place pass us by. In our countdown of 2015’s best gay films, we use ‘gay film’ loosely. What’s more, this list is subjective, not definitive – what’s inescapable, though, is all ten of these films are amazing in their own, highly individualistic way.

10) Lilting

Lilting

Following his scene-stealing turn in Skyfall, Ben Whishaw’s considered, relatable performance in searing gay drama Lilting was a real change of pace. A gentle, graceful tale of love and loss, Canadian-born British director Hong Khaou’s film sees Richard (Whishaw) trying to comes to terms with the premature death of his lover Kai (the gorgeous Andrew Leung), while trying to connect with Kai’s devastated mother Junn (Cheng Pei-pei) – who knew nothing of her son’s homosexuality and can’t speak english. Heartbreaking but quietly uplifting, too.

9) 52 Tuesdays

Tuesdays

This powerful drama from Australian director Sophie Hyde was one of the jewels in the crown of this year’s newly-branded BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival. 52 Tuesdays tells the story of Jane (Del Herbert-Jane) and her 16-year-old daughter Billie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey), and the emotional journey the pair embark on across ’52 Tuesdays’, as Jane transitions and become James.

A remarkably realistic and intimate portrait of a family in flux, and boasting great performances across the board, it’s Cobham-Hervey who dazzles most as the precocious and complex Billie. From understanding to outraged; from rudely nonchalant to overwrought with anxiety, Billie sets a new standard for moody teenagers in film, and her careening transition from child to adult will be recognisable regardless of your gender or sexuality.

8) G.B.F

GBF
Although technically a 2013 film, this Mean Girls-inspired high school rom-com saw its wide release between January and March of this year. An independent movie made on a modest budget, it’s nevertheless rich in gloss and zingy one-liners (“my Wi-Fi password is Lilo”), and possesses a fearlessness, or ‘fierceness’, that would’ve been comprised in more bureaucratic hands.

When unassuming comic book geek Tanner (played with warmth and humility by Michael J. Willett) is outed at school, he’s surprised to find himself ascending to the top of the social pile, as the school’s three queen bees compete to make him their ‘Gay Best Friend’ (or, as were regrettably known in my day, ‘fag bangle’).

Featuring supporting turns from Megan Mullally (Will and Grace’s Karen) as a mother to a gay son and Orange Is the New Black’s Natasha Lyonne as a gay-friendly teacher whose own G.B.F left her ‘for a leather queen in San Diago’, this is a treasure trove of a gay movie that turns convention on its head.

7) Love Is Strange

Love

This touching French-American drama wooed critics upon its limited US release in August; the film reaches UK screens in February 2015. When Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina), two fabulously dapper Manhattanites fast approaching retirement, finally marry after a loved-up four decades together, they soon find their relationship tested in unexpected ways.

After Catholic school teacher George loses his job, he and painter Ben lose their fabulous apartment and are forced to live separately; George with the hot gay cops next door and Ben with his extended family. Wryly-observed but modestly-executed situational comedy abounds, but the film’s driving force is the moving connection between the lead characters.

An understated film that explores concepts and characters oft-overlooked in gay film: whether that’s commitment, or what it’s like to be a gay senior citizen in modern times.

6) Reaching For the Moon

moon
Another huge hit at BFI Flare earlier this year, this underrated, absorbing love story focuses on the wild love affair between the enigmatic poet Elizabeth Bishop (Lord of the Rings’ Mirando Otto) and the ridiculously sexy Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares (Gloria Pires).

Otto and Pires are perfectly cast as two halves of a gay supercouple, boasting contrasting creativity and charisma. But despite their respective talents and achievements, the pair must navigate life’s treacherous waters just like the rest of us, their relationship often hanging in the balance. The performances are superb, and Brazil looks simply ravishing throughout.

5) Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas
Men-of-the-moment Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto were inducted into Hollywood hall of fame through their work on this semi-fictional drama, winning the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor Oscar respectively.

Dallas Buyers Club details the life of hard-living, homophobic Texan cowboy Ron Woodroof (McConaughey) who, upon being diagnosed with AIDS, meets fabulous, Warholian trans woman and fellow AIDS sufferer Rayon (Leto). Discontent with the hospital treatment they’re receiving, the unlikely pair set up a trading club, distributing unlicensed medication to thousands of HIV and AIDS patients.

It wears its queer subtext proudly on its sleeve, but not everyone was pleased with the film; some members of the trans community took issue with a straight man being cast in the role of a trans woman, while many were left unconvinced by the celebratory depiction of Woodroof as a redemptive, enlightened bigot conveniently hungry for the pink pound. On a personal note, this writer also found the cinematography dry, the pace glacially slow and McConaughey as unbearable as ever – although I thought Leto’s Rayon was charming.

 

4) Stranger By the Lake

Stranger
Making its impact in the UK in February 2014, Alain Guiraudie’s erotic thriller paints a picture of cruising that’s at once alluring and deadly. Discovering easy, transient sex at a picturesque lake in the French countryside one summer, a disillusioned Franck gets more than he bargained for when he falls in love and lust with the mysterious and malignantly sexy Michel – who has a pesky habit of drowning his lovers once he’s done with them.

Featuring hazy, otherworldly scenes of earth-shattering love and explicit sex, there are comparisons to be made between Stranger and 2013’s Blue Is the Warmest Colour; perhaps the biggest similarity being both are incredibly traumatic to watch, albeit for very different reasons…

 

3) The Imitation Game

imitation

Benedict Cumberbatch is a shoe in for the 2015 Best Actor Oscar for his skilled, sophisticated portrait of mathematical genius Alan Turing in this polished biopic. Widely credited as the inventor of the computer, Alan Turing was deployed at Bletchley Park during World War Two, and used one of his trailblazing machines to break Nazi code, making what Winston Churchill called the ‘biggest contribution’ to Allied victory against Nazi Germany. However, Turing’s story ended in tragedy only a few years later when he committed suicide following heinous prosecution and chemical treatment for his homosexuality in the early 1950s.

Cinematic from the off, Turing’s incredible story needed to be told, and Norwegian-born director Morten Tyldum cranks up the drama while being respectful – if not reverential – of the man himself, in this handsomely-mounted, swiftly-paced film.

However, Tyldum’s been criticized by some LGBTIs for shying away from Turing’s sexuality. Indeed, there are no sex scenes, but there is an overt focus on Turing’s glory years over his later ones, and his fleeting engagement to colleague Joan Clarke (played here with style and substance by Keira Knightly, even though the performance overlaps with at least four others of hers) over his relationships with men. Something’s missing perhaps – but it’s impossible to not be impressed by The Imitation Game.

 

2) The Normal Heart

heart
Ryan Murphy’s relentless, frenetic directorial style, as illustrated in Glee and American Horror Story, won’t be everyone’s cup of tea – but his take on The Normal Heart for HBO is easily one of the most accessible, not to mention important, films on this list. Based on Larry Kramer’s part-autobiographical play of the same name, it’s hard not to fall in love with Mark Ruffalo as journalist Ned Weeks, who evolves into an activist of unbridled passion as the HIV-AIDS crisis sweeps early 80s New York, and Ned’s close network of friends.

Seeing the group at once unravel and unite, ultimately forming the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), is fascinating: glossy pretenses drop, handsome faces give way to pain and panic while countless gym-toned bodies are ravaged. As a source of education for younger generations of gay men too young to remember or have lived through the height of the HIV and AIDS epidemic, the film is priceless. Meanwhile, its buoyant energy, and the intimate humor between the cast, prevents it from being all doom and gloom.

To boot, Julia Roberts is as delightful as ever as straight-ally superwoman Dr. Emma Brookner, and rivals Ruffalo in one scene of fervent fighter’s spirit. Plus Jonathan Groff crops up in little more than a cameo that will shock you to your very core – Looking this ain’t.

 

1) Pride

pride

Already a fully-fledged British classic in the vein of Billy Elliot or The Full Monty, Pride comes courtesy of the current Old Vic director Matthew Warchus, the man behind blockbuster musical Matilda.

Combining pathos and politics to remarkable effect, Pride follows a group of downtrodden Thatcher-era queer rights activists who garner national attention in ways they could never have predicted, after they decide to focus their campaigning efforts on an impoverished Welsh village in the grip of the miners’ strike. The consequences are at once dramatic, comedic and romantic.

The impressive ensemble cast, including Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton, playfully subvert stereotypes, whether its curtain-twitching villagers or militant, colourfully-attired 80s gays and lesbians. Andrew Scott as the adorable and reticent Welshman Gethin is a highlight.

With its crowd-pleasing soundtrack and delicate balance of characters, it’s no wonder Warchus has hinted he may adapt Pride for the stage. The best British film in years, and, fingers crossed, a dark horse for Oscar glory.