No matter your age, gender or orientation, there is something deeply compelling about the prospect of a young man telling his father that he is gay. But while it’s a strong theme and premise, is it enough to sustain a feature-length documentary?
We know nothing about young filmmaker Alden Peters at first. He’s just a young guy in a car, no different to a dozen other kids you saw on the bus this morning, but he takes us on journey with him that could not be any more personal. His first ‘coming out’ announcement is a soft landing. He lays it out on his brother as they drive ““ a classic guy move, having the big conversation in the car, sitting close but with no real eye contact required or even possible. It’s the perfect way to poke your toe out of the closet. When he eventually gets to his father though, he allows himself no such mercies and does it face to face.
In these modern times we tell ourselves we are progressive, and at the macro level things are probably better than they ever have been (despite certain Governments continuing to drag their feet), but at the individual level, the weight of the world sits on these kids’ shoulders and, sometimes, it’s too heavy to bear. Alden was inspired to chronicle his journey ‘out’ following a rash of suicides in his community. He knew it wasn’t healthy to keep his life in different compartments and his time had come to let everyone in his life know what he had known for years. Fortunately, he decided to film it.
Alden gets a range of reactions from his family members and once he’s worked through that list, has to decide whether to update his social media profile ““ once it’s on Facebook there’s no going back! Through it all Alden maintains a light touch, both in his personal interactions and in his filmmaking, in turn allowing the heavy topic to go down easily. His self-depreciating humour avoids any sense of self-indulgence and his sensitive, guileless nature has you rooting for him the whole way through. But at the halfway point in the movie there is some concern that the tension has already been exhausted and there will be no conflict to propel the second half of the film.
But that is exactly the lesson Alden is here to teach us. Telling people is only half the battle. Most of those that hear the news can then carry on with their own lives mostly as is, while the ‘Outee’ (if that’s a word?) has turned their own world upside down and is forced to determine what’s next. While no one person can provide answers, this documentary would be an important touch point for any one in similar circumstances and a useful tool of understanding for those that aren’t.
Coming Out is doing the festival rounds, has already been awarded Best Documentary from the Milan International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and has joined the Sydney Mardi Gras Film Festival. It would be ideal if it captures mainstream distribution and attention, but even if it doesn’t, there’s every chance this documentary could (and should) have a second life in schools. While this is the story of one man’s journey, the issues he walks us through are universal.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10
“¢”¢”¢”¢”¢ Screening at Mardi Gras Film Festival 2017 “¢”¢”¢”¢”¢