In a way it is a pity that this film has received so much press coverage, it’d be interesting to watch it not knowing what was going to happen between Ennis and Jack. But it is pretty much known as the gay cowboy film by now, so that part of the plot isn’t going to take anyone by surprise.
We start the story in 1963, both Ennis and Jack are young, poor cowboys looking for work, and sent to tend a herd of sheep up Brokeback Mountain. Ennis is the silent type, and when after a drinking session he tells his life story in a few sentences Jack grins at him, says thats the most he’s heard Ennis say all the time they’ve been up the mountain. Ennis smiles back and agrees, it may be more than he has said in a year.
The friendship between the two men grows slowly, and until one day, almost suddenly they are very much a couple.
After they leave the job and Brokeback mountain they don’t see each other for a while. Jack returns to his rodeo-ing, while Ennis goes and marries his girlfriend. Life is tough, money is hard to come by and there doesn’t seem to be all that much happiness in their lives. Until one day Jack sends Ennis a postcard. And from then on they meet up every year or so, not for very long, and always returning to their “normal” lives for the most part.
I haven’t read many reviews yet, but what I have heard is plenty of praise for Heath Ledger in his role as Ennis, and I’d have to agree he was superb. Ennis is a hard character to portray. He doesn’t say much. He is full of this bottled up rage that occasionally bursts out. He keeps himself to himself. Gyllenhaal has the slightly easier job of bringing Jack to life, but both do a wonderful job in this film. As do all the other actors, special mention must go to Michell Williams, playing Alma Del Mar Ennis’ wife, she gets across just the right amount of hurt and anger at her husband.
The whole films looks wonderful, the countryside is important, it is a cowboy film after all. But it is much more a love story. Whether or not it is a gay film probably depends on your definition of what a gay film is. It surely isn’t a laugh-a-minute, although there are laughs along the way. If I had to label Brokeback Mountain I’d have to say it is a gay cowboy love film. But I don’t like to label things, so I won’t say that.
But in a way this is a film about how happiness can be lost. And how you can never go back, because time passes and circumstances change and nothing is ever the same again.