Judge Brett Cullum applauds those wacky French for actually finding a way to make a unique entry in the tired old "coming out" genre.
A French lesson in love.
Just a Question of Love started off as a television movie made in France, then became a critic's darling and a staple of the Gay and Lesbian film festival circuit. It's a coming out story—and I was dreading reviewing yet another movie where a gay man has to come to terms with his sexuality. It seems many gay films deal with the "birth" of a gay man who is deciding to finally fling open his closet door. This has become a predominant genre in GLBT films over the years. Surprisingly, Just a Question of Love feels fresh despite its popular theme. The movie has very little nudity, but it packs a lot of naked emotions into a well-acted, touching story about a college student who finds himself confronting his parents with the truth after a long period of deception. It asks the hard questions, and it has a bravery few films have. I find it ironic that the best gay films I have seen lately have all been foreign. This French entry surpasses any American movie I've seen in the genre because it feels real and honest. Nothing is played for shock or exploitation, which is a nice change.
Laurent (Cyrille Thouvenin, seen in the French TV miniseries version of Dangerous Liaisons) is a twenty-three year old botany student who has been in mourning for a year since his gay cousin died. His family disowned his ailing relative because he was gay, and now Laurent is deceiving them by living with a girl and pretending to be straight. He meets Cedric (Stephan Guerin-Tillie, seen in the recent French TV miniseries of The Count of Monte Cristo), who is an out and proud researcher living with his mother, who knows he is gay. When Laurent and Cedric fall in love it creates complications for both men, who are unsure how to handle each other given their different circumstances. Cedric pushes Laurent to tell his family he is gay, but Laurent is (correctly) afraid that if he does come out, his parents will never accept him or his choice. One man fears the consequences, and the other fears it will hold their relationship at a standstill.
What's unique about Just a Question of Love is that it shows both men having selfish motives for wanting Laurent to come out or stay safely in the closet. Neither one is completely right or wrong, and we're left watching the grays swirl together in a world where nothing is black and white. Both men have problems; there is no instant solution to their emotional conundrums. You could easily compare this film to Latter Days, a US release that takes the same situation to an extreme by making one man a Mormon missionary and the other a West Hollywood hottie. But in Latter Days things quickly escalate to extreme drama; with Just a Question of Love things stay firmly planted in the realm of real life. Both of these men are from the same world, and religion is not as much of an issue as love and respect within their families. The movie examines not only the impact of homosexuality on individuals, but what it does to the people who love them. The friends and families are not derivative abstractions clinging on to fundamentalist religion, but real human beings who are not homophobic. Homosexuals are fine in theory; they just aren't ready for one in their family.
It's a damn smart film with a lot of great performances. The two leads are convincing, and are just regular guys. They don't look like underwear models, but are still cute enough to be appealing. I love European GLBT films, because they forsake the American ideal of having everyone look like they spent all day waxing and working out at the gym. These are just two men who happen to love each other. All the actors in the supporting cast are as real and believable as the two leads, too. The role of Carole, the pretend girlfriend, is fully realized in a sensitive portrayal by Caroline Veyt. She is stunning, and it's also nice to see the "fag hag" role played by a beautiful blonde. She is hanging out with Laurent because she loves and cares for him, and not because she's an overweight wallflower. Eva Darlan (Femme Fatale) plays Emma, Cedric's accepting mother. Her performance is breathtaking as she explains how she reacted when her son told her he was gay. All around it's a strong cast working from a strong script, with good production values for television.
Picture This offers Just a Question of Love with a beautiful transfer free of any technical glitches, and no extras at all. I was a little disappointed we have nothing to support this fine film, but kudos to them for putting it out in the United States. There are quite a few distributors here in America that usually only offer GLBT films with a lot of nudity or some shock value, but here they offer a solid film with no scenes used purely for titillation. They certainly seem to take their films seriously, and have made some heady and strong choices on what to release. This one certainly wowed me.
It's real, honest, and a brilliant film. Just a Question of Love offers no easy answers when it comes to coming out. The movie unflinchingly shows the hard truth that often life outside of the closet is just as scary as it was inside. The performances are first rate, and the script is well written. You couldn't ask for a more enjoyable experience for the GLBT community on DVD. No question about it, I loved this film.
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