Judge Michael Nazarewycz needs a tissue—and by "tissue," he means "box of tissues."
A Love Story. Unequaled.
I've heard a lot about Kickstarter campaigns, especially those created to finance films, but I've never actually seen an end result. Until now.
Facts of the Case
From producer/director Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (Designing Women) comes Bridegroom, a documentary of destiny and love and tragedy and intolerance. Shane Bitney Crone and Thomas Bridegroom grow up in separate towns in separate parts of the expansive United States Midwest, but they shared something in common, even in those early days of their separate lives: they were both gay.
Fate lends a hand when their individual lives bring them to California, and mutual friends make a serendipitous introduction. The rest is history. The young men fall in love, deal with coming out to family members, and spend their first years building their joint life together, complete with long-term plans for the future.
However, fate can be cruel just as it can be kind. Tom dies in a freak accident, but it's what happens after he dies that is the cruelest thing Shane encounters in a lifetime of encountering cruel things.
Bridegroom is an emotionally charged film, led by the charm of its subjects and the enormity of the challenges they face, but it's the deft direction from TV veteran Bloodworth-Thomason, here making her first film, that makes this work.
Bloodworth-Thomason takes great care to make sure we are invested in Shane and Tom as individuals first. Their lives are well-documented and, other than the opening that begins with the accident, is told chronologically. The boys' stories are complete with interviews of family and friends (most heavily, interviews with Shane himself), photos, and videos. Most notable, and impactful, is the collection of video diary entries that Shane made as he grew. Seeing people put their lives on display via YouTube and the like has made me desensitized to the notion of yet another "moving selfie," but in the context of the story, these clips work very well.
Because Tom is no longer with us, his story is told a little more in the traditional documentary structure. Bloodworth-Thomason, though, takes great care to hit all of Tom's highlight reel moments, and she is smart to showcase his ridiculously good looks without ever exploiting them; she walks that line perfectly. She also clearly contrasts the awkward and shy Shane with the bursting-with-confidence Tom.
Once the story shifts to the young men as a couple, and the familial dynamic it creates is exposed, the story becomes much more interesting. This only stands to reason, as the introduction of conflict to any story, fact or fiction, makes the story more interesting.
If you are in for a dime by the time you meet these young men, you are in for a dollar once tragedy strikes. It is devastating to watch and I was gobsmacked by the series of events in the hours and days following Tom's death. I know bad guys exist, but they don't always look like Bane; this serves as a stark reminder of that.
By the end of the film, you just wanna hug everybody.
The quality of the video and audio on this DVD is irrelevant. This is a labor of love, not a quest for technical supremacy. As for the extras, there aren't any. It's no surprise, given that this is a crowd-funded film. The only material on the disc beyond the film are five PSAs for various charitable organizations.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The fact that the story becomes more interesting when the men become a couple is a relative statement. With all respect to everyone involved, the hook of this story is the tragedy and the aftermath. Having an idea of what the aftermath was before I saw the film gave the lead-up some more weight, but without that knowledge (or without the aftermath), it's a boy-meets-boy tale. It's lovely, but millions of couples—same sex or not—have an X-meets-X tale to tell. Because the end of the story is what makes the story, I think a little too much time is spent on the beginning of the story.
The one thing I expected—and I am very surprised that it doesn't happen in Bridegroom—is the "here's what's next" segment. After a beautiful story with a terrible outcome, and that terrible outcome's terrible ripple effect, I really want to know what Shane plans to do about those ripples—not just his own, but others', too. They are ripe for change and ready for a champion, but there is no sense in this film that petitions for legislation or marches in small towns will be undertaken to help those suffering similar social fates. Perhaps Shane can parlay a sequel that documents how this film was the start of something bigger.
No matter how tragic the story, and no matter how intolerant some players in that story might be, destiny and love will always win. Always.
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