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This is a really beautiful movie. It tells the story of Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, two young cowboys who meet in the summer of 1963, up on Brokeback Mountain. They forge a connection which stays with them throughout their lives. This film is wonderfully acted, and watching it now just reminds one of what a wonderful talent has been lost with the tragic death of Heath Ledger. He is outstanding in this movie, as is Jake Gyllenhaal.

The film is widely known as ‘the gay cowboy movie’, but it is so much more than that.  Ennis and Jake fall for each other so deeply, and at a time and in a culture where such a love would be heavily frowned upon (indeed, Ennis suspects that Jack is murdered for being gay).  It’s clear that Ennis in particular is taken completely by surprise at his feelings for Jack, and is not sure how to deal with his emotions.  He has always bottled his feelings up, and additionally, has always been taught that homosexuality is completely wrong.  He struggles with his feelings throughout his entire life, and eventually at the cost of his marriage. It is interesting to note that early on in the movie (before anything physical has happened between the two men), Ennis is talking to Jack about his childhood. Jack notes that Ennis has just said more words in that conversation than he has said in the whole two weeks that they had spend together up until that point. Ennis then says that he has just said more than he has said in the past year. This demonstrates how he finds it difficult to open up to people, but has started to learn to trust Jack.

Jack is more open about his feelings, and even at one point suggests that he and Ennis could live together.  Ennis states that that could never happen – he knows what can happen to men who are openly gay, and still doesn’t seem able to accept his own feelings, let alone be prepared for anyone else to accept them.  Ennis’ inability to accept his own feelings (and to a lesser extent, Jack’s inability to do the same) is a constant thread throughout the film.  Often Ennis’ frustration manifests itself in violence.  Indeed, when Alma, he ex wife reveals that she knew about his and Jack’s relationship, it looks as though he is going to punch her.

The final meeting between the two, where Jack makes it clear once again that he wants more than an occasional mountain break with Ennis, and laments that he wishes he knew ‘how to quit’ Ennis is very tender and sad.  Ennis’s reaction to Jack’s statement is even more emotional.

The ending, where Ennis goes to see Jack’s parents after learning of Jack’s death, is beautifully acted, and extremely moving.  It’s apparent that Jack’s father knows, or at least suspects his son’s homosexuality, and he takes almost a twisted kind of pleasure in informing Ennis that Jack used to talk about him all the time, but had more recently started talking about another man.  Ennis surely has to wonder whether Jack had finally found a way to quit him.  But then the discovery of two shirts shows that Jack never could and never did quite Ennis.  They really were each other’s one true love, and the tragedy is that they could never be together properly.

The acting in this film is excellent all round.  The two leads are outstanding, and Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway are brilliant as the wives of Ennis and Jack respectively.  I really found myself caring about these people and wanting to know how their story would turn out.

I know that this is a film I could – and will – watch over and over again.  A tender, touching love story, which is wonderfully acted and directed.

Year of release: 2005

Director: Ang Lee

Writers: Annie Proulx (book), Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana

Main cast: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway

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Click here for my review of Annie Proulx’s book ‘Close Range’ which contains the short story ‘Brokeback Mountain’.

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