BFI Flare 2015 Review: I Am Michael (starring James Franco)





This review is part of Rosa and Silvia's coverage of BFI Flare 2015

Directed by James Kelly and produced by Gus Van Sant, I Am Michael tells the real-life tale of Michael Glatze (James Franco) and his transition from gay activist to anti-gay Christian pastor, following a health scare. After developing panic attacks in fear of having inherited his father's heart disease, Michael becomes obsessed with reuniting with his deceased parents in heaven, and gradually distances himself from his work, his longtime boyfriend (Zachary Quinto) and ultimately his sexuality and whole identity.

The story holds no surprises and proceeds in a somewhat formulaic manner while managing, however, to be both controversial and thought provoking. Even though it deals with a very atypical topic such as the religious awakening of an ex-gay, I Am Michael is a story of normality. The life Michael runs away from, his caring and self-possessed partner and even the three-way relationship they establish with a younger man are all portrayed within a context of normality and ease, which, by contrast, highlights how bland and unnatural the Christian lifestyle and his romance with a fellow Bible-college student (Emma Roberts) feel for the protagonist. The cast of beloved Hollywood stars and extremely attractive newcomers contributes to make of it a gay film with a mainstream appeal.

In this sense, although after a screening at the BFI Flare Kelly stressed how his work has already been criticised for the dangerous handling of a delicate matter, the film adopts a rather normative perspective on sexuality and gender roles. While we would have liked to see more reflection on the fluidity of sexual identity and experience, we understand the limitations that arise from a subject that is already problematic as it is. 

The subtle but incisive ending scene is enough to pinpoint the director's point of view and invite the viewer to a consideration of the complex negotiations in processes of identity formation, particularly with respect to issues of religion, sexuality and self-acceptance.

JAMES FRANCO as Michael 
ZACHARY QUINTO as Michael’s Boyfriend Bennett 
EMMA ROBERTS as Michael’s Girlfriend Rebekah 
Written and Directed by JUSTIN KELLY 
From Executive Producer GUS VAN SANT 
Based on the New York Times article “My Ex-Gay Friend” by Benoit Denizet Lewis 
Running Time: 99 MIN






No comments: