Earlier this year I happened to see a promotional video on YouTube for this documentary. Watching the ten minute mini-doc which chronicled the last thirty minutes of this movie (the tragic death of Tom Bridegroom, and the horrible treatment his partner Shane received from Tom’s family) I found myself in tears. It felt so honest and the emotional weight of loss and prejudice hit me like a ton of bricks.
I knew that I needed to see this film.
I saw this last night.
‘Bridegroom’ is a multifaceted title, for it simply states the decease’s last name but it also foreshadows the film’s stance on equality. As Shane states towards the film’s close, Tom was always denied his last name (in other words; they could not get married). Sadly, one of my biggest qualms with this film is that lack of depth given to that aspect of this story. As much as they state their frustration for not being able to marry, when the film gets into the guts of the story it is almost like that aspect of things is brushed completely over. Let’s mention it, but let’s not add any depth. Let’s not attack the legality of it all and elaborate on the injustice we faced. Let’s simple state our inability to marry, and call it a day.
My issues don’t remain there though, for a big problem I have with the film is the poor quality. The film feels very amateur in construction, like something that was made for television (much like those ‘I Survived’ shows) and the manipulative nature of much of the flashbacks felt painfully obvious and ill-advised. I understand the devastation of the situation, but the use of sentimental music overlaid on montages of Shane and Tom laughing and cuddling felt sappy and tacky. The whole first half of the film felt pointless, really. The guts of this story have to do with the tragedy and what happened afterwards, but instead we get nearly 40 minutes of Shane growing up and his crazy great-grandmother and the fact that she doesn’t remember anything about him moving or the fact that he was gay. We don’t need to know about this, and it all felt so uncomfortable to watch (those cheaply staged interviews).
I think this is what really bothers me. They spent so much time elaborating on useless information, that when we get to the tragedy and the treatment Shane experiences afterward, it gets some passing remarks and a manipulative construction. Yes, Tom’s parents were ashamed of their son and his lifestyle and they did everything in their power to cut Shane out of their lives and erase them from Tom’s past once he had passed. That is awful and hurtful and very touching, but this documentary had to opportunity to make this bigger than a sole experience. It had the chance to make a bold statement about the state of equality in the world today, and instead it seemed more focused on making Tom’s parents the chief antagonists. I’m not saying they deserve our respect for what they did, but by the film’s end this all felt so vindictive and distasteful.
And the less said about those video diaries the better, to be honest.
I hate to say this. While watching the film (or really, while hearing the story for the first time) I felt truly touched and even connected to the story. My brother is gay and my parents (and quite frankly, a lot of my family) has yet to embrace him and his partner, and so that aspect of this story resonated with me deeply. Sadly, I felt as if this documentary dropped the ball and came across more self-serving than anything else, when it could have served a greater good than Shane Bitney Crone.
I am sorry for his loss and I am horrified at how he was treated by the Bridegroom family, and their lack of participation in this documentary (but really, can you blame them?) is unfortunate, but change is VERY hard for people set in their ways.
This is a tragic story that needed to be told, I just wish it had been told better than this.
This film has already won a few awards, most likely because of the emotional attachment to the story and the plea for a progressive society, but the film is truly a poorly made documentary and I don't see Oscar biting here at all, despite the eligibility. I'd give this, sadly, a D.