Title: Dorian Blues
Director: Tennyson Bardwell
Genre: Coming out/Coming of age
Other Information/warnings: some bad language
Dorian Lagatos finally realises that the reason he doesn’t fit in with his ultra-conservative family or the stereotypical American teenage image is because he’s gay. The film documents his struggle for self-understanding, and acceptance.
I bought this film on the recommendation of Blake Fraina and the various reviews linked from the IMDB entry – and man, am I glad I did. This quirky, highly clever film starts and ends with a funeral. In between are eighty minutes of wit, emotion, pathos, tension – the whole human experience it feels like. Even though this is about a young gay man trying to find himself and his place in the world, there are so many universal experiences here, that almost anyone could find a resonance. Controlling, conservative parents. Competition with siblings for parental love. Leaving a small town for the big city and finding opportunities and loneliness. Grief. Love. Self-doubt. All beautifully and authentically portrayed by the utterly luminous Michael McMillian, ably supported by a cast of little known but outrageously talented actors in a real gem, a tightly shot, sharply scripted film that bears rewatching many times.
McMillan is the focus of the story and he delivers his dry observations pitch-perfectly, either as narrator or player. His big, soft eyes seem to burn into the viewer, and you just want to pick Dorian up and cuddle and protect him from the big, cruel world. But Dorian’s not harmless or helpless, and though his wonderful, sympathetic, exquisitely portrayed brother Nicky (played by Lea Coco) is embarrassedly supportive and protective, Dorian ultimately stands on his own – not alone, but self-maintaining. It’s a story about finding inner strength, and Dorian has it in spades.
The real delight of this film, apart from the script, is the honest, underplayed acting by a sturdy cast, portrayed a set of incredibly memorable characters, from Dorian’s controlling, intelligent father, afraid what his son’s homosexuality means for his son’s life, to the hooker whose real talent is truly fabulous singing (creating one of the sweetest scenes in the film) to the mother who seems a ditz, but isn’t. Nicky is just…well, when you cry with him, you feel it, because he makes you feel along with him. Everyone, even the unsympathetic characters, is vivid, real, moving, and three-dimensional.
This really is a wonderful jewel of a movie, and deserves so much more than to be tagged as ‘just’ a gay movie. It’s one for anyone who has a family, who has a sibling, who has ever questioned the values by which they were raised – or anyone who loves good acting, script writing and clever direction. I think I want to marry this film and have its babies 🙂