"Bridegroom" Airs On OWN Sunday 10/27
At a time where everyone seems to be documenting everything about his or her life, Shane Bitney Crone's YouTube video "It Could Happen to You" shouldn't be a surprise. Young people, especially, love posting pictures and videos about everything that occurs in their lives. If it isn't captured in images, they say, it's didn't happen. But what is a surprise is just how much Crone's video affected millions of people around the globe.
The ten-minute post documents the tragic story of a man (Shane) whose boyfriend, Tom Bridegroom, is accidentally killed. Shane is then denied many privileges married couples have, such as being in the hospital room with his partner and attending the funeral. Shane watches as Tom's family completely shun him and his six-year relationship, which not only included a house, but a business they had together. The family ignores this part of their son's life, because they can't accept that he was gay.
The story touched people from all walks of life all over the world. One person it affected was producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason ("Designing Women") who - through Kickstarter - raised the funds to make a feature length documentary about Shane and Tom's story and bring it to the world. The film "Bridegroom" is the result of that campaign.
The film opens with the story of two boys: Shane and Tom. Both grow up in small towns (Shane in Montana, Tom in Indiana) where homosexuality is frowned upon. While Shane spends most of his formative years stressing about his orientation, Tom keeps his a secret while excelling at everything he puts his mind to: Military school, Vassar, singing, acting... you name it.
Separately, the two find themselves in Los Angeles in their early 20s and are eventually set up on a blind date, of sorts. The two quickly bond and find themselves in love. During this time they became frugal travelers, amass a collection of close friends, and ultimately come out to their parents.
This is where things veer in different directions. Shane's mother is totally accepting of her son; Tom's mother and father react so negatively as to be almost violent. The two men find some peace with it all until the day that tragedy strikes and Tom is lost forever.
What Bloodworth-Thomason does so well with "Bridegroom" is that she has amassed a plethora of home video footage that Shane and Tom shot, along with interviews with their friends and family -- well, Shane's family. Tom's family didn't bother responding to calls asking them to participate. By combining these interviews and video, Bloodworth-Thomason has carefully created a portrait of two men in love. We get to see what they were like before they knew each other, we delight at their meeting, and then we get to witness their lives together.
What this film so brilliantly does is illustrate how "normal" and "common" gay relationships are. For people who haven't been exposed to gay couples or have only been able to rely on movies and stories, to see the relationship flourish in an honest and organic way does wonders in making these two relatable and their partnership not "scary."
The other thing it does is spend almost an hour bringing us close to these two men, which makes the tragedy of Tom's death all the more palpable. We feel devastated for Shane, his friends, and their families. The loss is devastating, and the suddenness of his passing hurts. But despite our hearts breaking for the last third of the movie, we also are faced with the reality. We see the anguish Shane has to go to in order to just see Tom shortly after he has passed away. We see him struggle to be respectful to Tom's mother when she shows no respect for him.
In watching this, it becomes apparent that things have to change. In fact, the relationship has been so well portrayed that there is only one conclusion to be made: Equal rights must be granted to families like Shane and Tom's. Bloodworth-Thompson does not point fingers or lay on guilt trips to the groups that oppose gay marriage. She simply lets the story speak for itself, which, in the long run, is the best approach. If we can get people to see the film that might not understand gay relationships, or why we fight for equality, I truly believe hearts and minds can be changed.
I want to be fair and state that as a gay man, this story strikes a chord. But as I watched the film, I knew my reaction would be the same if it were about a straight couple. This is a movie about a deep love that is taken away too soon. Yes, the challenges faced by dealing with an ignorant family and unfair laws are definitely gay-specific, but the film becomes something so much more than that. It's a movie that should be shared, because we all can only hope to have a love as vibrant and true as Shane and Tom's.
If Tom's tragic death can be reflected on to change the way the world looks at the love between two men or two women, then his tragic loss won't be in vain. This is an astonishingly beautiful portrait of profound love that transcends gender. It is a love that is beautiful, potent, and grand, and it makes for one of the most affecting films of the year.
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Bridegroom will air on OWN Sunday October 27, 2013 - check your local listings.