I Am Michael
An odd sad little film about a gay activist who, after a series of panic attacks that he mistakes for the onset of the heart disease that killed his father, returns to the Christianity of his mother and becomes an ex-gay married pastor. Ethically, this is potentially a problematic film because Michael Glatze, the real person on whom it is based, had no say in the production, having sold rights in his life story. As it is, he turns out to have rather enjoyed the film, and thinks it a fair-minded portrayal of what happened. Further, his phase of believing that to be gay is to be damned has passed – he has become critical of the particular approach to biblical literalism that he used to espouse.
It’s a subject that has always concerned me – how do you go on loving a friend who makes choices that you see as harming them, you and the community of which you’re both part. It’s relevant to some of the questions within the trans community – where a variety of ideological positions clash quite intensely…
As it is, a rather greyly written film that gets leadenly obvious in places and is a little unfair in the way it shows belief as essentially about guilt and fear without much actual bliss or ecstasy. What makes it work is Zachary Quinto’s simple quiet goodness as Bennet, Michael’s ex, who loves him unconditionally and accepts that they are over. James Franco is excellent too, as Michael; he furrows his brow rather too much but his body language is extraordinar – as Michael works harder and harder at ceasing to have a gay identity his body seems to become heavier, his movements more leaden and solid. Emma Roberts has a goofy charm as the sweet Christian woman whom he marries – at the end, when he is nervous about his new congregation, she is just excited, like a child at Christmas and the start of her new life.
A film that I cam to like after some real clunkiness along the way.