One of the quiet charmers in this year’s Mardi Gras Film Festival program is the BBC-produced drama When I’m 64. It’s rare that the sexuality of older folk is acknowledged in the cinema, let alone that of older gay men.
Jim (Alum Armstrong) is retiring as the Latin teacher at the school where he was both teacher and student. In short, his entire life has been spent there.
But contrary to finding his retirement problematic, Jim seems purposeful. As his taxi pulls away, Jim jots down his plans in his notebook: travel the world and fall in love.
His cab driver is Ray (Paul Freeman), a widower who still likes to drink at the pub with his mates. He’ll even go along for a spot of street fighting though he’s in his 60s and a bit short on puff.
When Jim leaves his jacket in Ray’s car, the events that follow draw the two men unexpectedly together -“ in a way that truly surprises, and at first repels, Ray.
There’s obviously a connection between the men, but the path to love is never smooth, particularly if Ray’s grown son and daughter have their way.
Director Jon Jones relies on a few tried and true romantic devices in telling the story, yet because we’ve not seen them in the context of two older men falling in love, When I’m 64 feels honest and heart-achingly beautiful. It’s a truly gorgeous film.
The family theme continues in both the Spanish romantic comedy My Mother Likes Women(A Mi Madre Le Gustan Las Mujeres) and Tim Kirkman’s highly regarded feature Loggerheads.
In My Mother Likes Women, the matter of a parent coming out to her children becomes the premise for a neurotic Woody Allen-esque urban farce.
It’s Sophia’s birthday and her three grown daughters have joined her to celebrate. Their mother, a renowned pianist, has something to share with them. She’s fallen in love again, only her new lover is a woman.
You’d think they’d be happy for their long-divorced mother but nope, they react like a bunch of nannas. The youngest Sol (Silvia Abascal) takes it best -“ she even composes a song for her band to play at their next gig.
The song -“ Mi Madre Le Gustan Las Mujeres -“ infuriates the conservative eldest Jimena (Mar?Pujalte) who’s stuck in a rotten marriage.
Budding author Elvira, played by Leonor Watling (Almoldovar’s muse in Talk to Her), collapses into mountains of self-doubt. She even toys with the possibility that she herself might be gay.
So the only thing for the daughters to do is to sabotage their mum’s relationship with the beautiful, shy Czech pianist (Eliska Sirova), a project that has many twists and turns, and is reminiscent of Russian Dolls.
My Mother Likes Women is Leonor Watling’s film. She sparkles on screen as the neurotic middle daughter Elvira who almost fails to nab the perfect guy who is practically throwing himself at her.
Sadly, while My Mother Likes Women is plenty of fun, the film’s central romance is completely unconvincing. Rosa Maria Sarda as the mother fails to persuade me of her character’s lesbianism. There’s just no spark between her and her spunky new girlfriend Eliska.
My Mother Likes Women, made in 2001 before gay marriage was legalised in Spain, deals with the pressures that gays and lesbians face when their cross-national relationships are not recognised.
Loggerheads, Kirkman’s moving drama about fractured families and adoption, follows the separate experiences of an estranged gay son, his adoptive mother and his birth mother across three distinct timeframes in the American south.
The story is inspired by true events, mainly a set of now extinct laws in the American state of North Carolina which prohibited parents and relinquished children from being reunited, even in adulthood.
In Kirkman’s stories, we meet Mark (Kip Pardue from But I’m A Cheerleader), a young gay drifter who arrives in a small North Carolina beach hamlet to watch the loggerhead turtle return to lay her eggs in the same spot she has throughout her life.
That she leaves them to hatch on their own marks the beautiful and threatened loggerhead as a metaphor for abandonment. Here Mark befriends the quiet romantic George (Michael Kelly) who runs the local motel -“ and, it seems, takes in lost souls.
Then there’s a preacher’s dominated wife Elizabeth (Tess Harper) whose adopted son ran away from home. Finally, there’s Bonnie Hunt’s Grace, a woman yearning to find the son she unwilling gave up for adoption as a teen.
Loggerheads‘ structure unfolds in mysterious layers. If you want to follow the narrative connections, it’s important to pay attention to the time and locations that flicker onto the screen in its first minutes.
An unpretentious and deeply satisfying film, Loggerheads won Best Feature at several film festivals including the Los Angeles 2005 Outfest. At last year’s San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, audiences gave the film a standing ovation.