International films that handled the topic of homosexuality with grace

Jan 11, 2015, 06:50 IST | Shakti Shetty

Films that gracefully highlight homosexuality might be comparatively fewer in numbers but some of them are indeed memorable 

We won't be surprised if Benedict Cumberbatch bags the Best Actor gong at Oscars next month. After all, the buzz surrounding his performance in The Imitation Game is so loud that it's hard to overlook his chances. The Sherlock star is essaying Alan Turning and it goes without mentioning that the celebrated mathematician's sexual orientation plays a significant role in the biopic.

Benedict Cumberbatch
Benedict Cumberbatch 

And for the record, so far, only four actors — Tom Hanks, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Charlize Theron and Sean Penn — have managed to win the Academy's top prize by portraying gay characters. Which is also why hitlist is taking you on a walk through some of the finest films that showcased the various aspects of homosexuality without resorting to cinematic caricature…

Yossi & Jagger (2002)
Yossi & Jagger
Eytan Fox
Lowdown: Israel churns out about 35 films a year and this one was one of the bravest for its times. Centered in a military base, the story revolves around two army men who are in love with each other — unbeknownst to others, of course. The twist takes place when one of them passes away, leaving several loose ends.

Latter Days (2003)
Latter Days
C. Jay Cox
Lowdown: Religion and sexuality don't always mix well. But with this movie, the writer-director chases the possibility of a hardened fanatic accepting who he really is. The finest part of this process being that he doesn't vulnerable. On the contrary, what starts out as a silly bet ends up as the ultimate path to sexual redemption.

Monster (2003)
Patty Jenkins
Lowdown: Based on the troubled life of prostitute-turned-murderer Aileen Wuornos, Charlize Theron played the female protagonist whose only form of solace occurs in the form of Christina Ricci's subdued character. Their relationship not only provides a glimpse of hope for Wuornos but also spells the doom for her.

Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Brokeback Mountain
Ang Lee
Lowdown: Writer Annie Proulx recently blamed this film for the misinterpretation of her short story which turned out to be the source of adapted screenplay. However, that doesn't discount the fact that the sort of temporary romance shown between two cowboys couldn't have been portrayed more sensitively.

Shelter (2007)
Jonah Markowitz
Lowdown: A surfer dude is unwillingly compromising on his artistic dreams for his family's sake. Right when he's coming to terms with his financial disabilities, he falls for his friend's elder brother. What follows is a clandestine but beautiful relationship filled with enlightening bumps for both the men involved.

Milk (2008)
Gus Van Sant
Lowdown: Harvey Milk became one of the first openly gay officials in the United States. His interesting story finds a peg in this remarkable biopic where Sean Penn essayed him — almost perfectly — encompassing the socio-politico environment of the '70s. By the end of the film, tolerance, not homophobia, becomes the keyword.

Were the World Mine (2008)
Were the World Mine
Tom Gustafson
Lowdown: Scripts featuring homosexual characters have a propensity of embracing clichés. Especially when stage is concerned. But this film topples preset prejudices by introducing beefy rugby players in a Shakespearean theatre. Oh wait, magic has an intriguing part to play too for the gay protagonist!

The Kids Are All Right (2010)
The Kids Are All Right
Lisa Cholodenko
Lowdown: A lesbian couple (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) are busy raising their kids when an information — in the form of Mark Ruffalo — from their past interrupts them. In the course of action, Moore's ambiguous character wonders whether she is really gay while Annette's understands the importance of being soft.

Weekend (2011)
Andrew Haigh
Lowdown: What begins as a casual one-night stand turns into something much deeper in essence between the two protagonists. One of the most acclaimed films of 2011, Weekend takes you on a tour through moments of expected intimacy and unexpected commitment. The best thing being the simple manner in which the film is executed.

The Paperboy (2012)
The Paperboy
Lee Daniels
Lowdown: Can you ever imagine a movie in which Matthew McConaughey getting an erection ogling John Cusack? We couldn't, either. However, in this film, that's exactly what happens as McConaughey plays a closet gay lawyer. So much so his sexual leaning changes the entire story as the plot thickens into a messy marsh.

Stranger by the Lake (2013)
Stranger by the Lake
Alain Guiraudie
Lowdown: Set in a French lakeside village, homosexuality is in the air. For more than half of the screentime, men are naked and on their way to swim. This idyllic setting takes a grim turn when murder is suspected instead of accident. That's also when the young protagonist learns a lesson about the price love when confused with lust can make one pay.

Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)
Blue Is the Warmest Color
Abdellatif Kechiche
Lowdown: It can't possibly get more explicit than this. Fortunately, titillation isn't the motive of this French feature on budding women. What begins as a mean of sexual explortation ends up as a love story that is heartbreakingly unrequited. Adèle Exarchopoulos couldn't have dreamt of a stronger — or for that matter, exposed — role.


That '90s show

The last decade of last century witnessed a steadier flow of homosexuality-themed movies. Not all of them were meant to be archived but some were indeed wonderfully sketched. Naming a few of them...

Philadelphia (1993)
A HIV-positive lawyer is wrongfully terminated from his job just because of his sexual orientation. Following which, he battles it out in a dramatic courtroom.

Total Eclipse (1995)
Total Eclipse
Leonardo DiCaprio had to wait for a long time for his first onscreen kiss and to his misfortune, it was with Daniel Thewlis in this film where Leo played Rimbaud.

Beautiful Thing (1996)
Beautiful Thing
Two young Brit boys, both suffering from their respective domestic circumstance, find warmth in each other's company. The world isn't going to accept it, as expected.

Bent (1997)
Clive Owen plays a gay inmate in a Nazi concentration camp. Thanks to his religious affiliation, there are more than enough problems. His sexuality adds to them.

Get Real (1998)
Get Real
A coming-of-age story about a young boy who has feelings for a fellow student but doesn't really have a remedy to make himself clear in front of his crush.

Boys Don't Cry (1999)
Boys Don't Cry
Hilary Swank earned her first Oscar gong for playing a woman who pretends to be a boy. As complicated as it may, lesbian feelings wouldn't be discarded.

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