Ryan, a closeted gay student at a seminary, not unlike Fuller Seminary
in Pasadena, falls in love with Bradley, a handsome but troubled young
man living in Irvine, which is about a hour south of Los Angeles. Ryan
is studying theology and hopes to go to an Ivy League school, but needs
to finish his thesis paper first.
Ryan doesn't lie about his homosexuality, but he doesn't talk about it openly. He has regular visits with his mom whom resides nearby but she's slightly in the dark. Ryan will have dinner with her, but they don't talk about his relationships with men. His mom and his friends are very religious and most likely regard homosexuality as a sin.
Ryan does have two straight friends, Kelli and Eugene who are dating, but he refrains from such conversations when around them, as they're both religious too. Ryan isn't completely alone. His friends and fellow classmates, Gerald and Anthony, are gay too. Ryan can converse with them but only in hushed or whispered tones.
Yet, Ryan can barely talk to them at all, as his relationship with Bradley is distancing him from Gerald and Anthony. It's odd because Ryan's relationship with Bradley is a tenuous one. He wishes it were more solid. He wishes it were even fluid, but it's not. It's as intangible as air. He can't get a firm grip on it.
The basics of Ryan's thesis is understanding God's love and in fact recognizing it. With regards to Bradley, Ryan gets into a situation where he loves a person who doesn't love him back, at least not in a more solid way. What we realize is that Ryan's situation is indicative of God's love. Much like the relationships in which Ryan finds himself, God's love is an unrequited love, as intangible as air.
Writer-director Joshua Lim who attended a seminary himself doesn't make this an obvious metaphor. It's contextualized to an extent in Ryan's thesis but Lim certainly doesn't hit you over the head with it. This idea of one's love for God being an unrequited love is one you contemplate upon careful reflection of this movie and its events, which aren't much. This isn't a movie built on any kind of plot. It is what most would consider a character study but bare in its contrivances or conventions.
Lim is calm and steady with his approach. His film is quiet and almost meditative. Some might call it boring but it's not. It's deliberate. I do have to admit though that I had my misgivings at the beginning. The first 20 minutes of this movie were quite off-putting. I wasn't sure where Lim was going or what his purpose was, but eventually as you continue to watch, you fall into his easy rhythm. Again, some might call it a lull, but Lim is a very soothing filmmaker.
The first 20 minutes in fact are a series of long one-shots, few camera moves and edits, mostly wide-angles and little to no musical score. Given the sexual tension put on display in that first 20 minutes, Lim's style and tone is almost a contradiction, but Lim exercises incredible control. Lim is a director in the truest sense. He not only directs his cast and crew but he directs the audience. He grabs hold of you and focuses your attention and he does so without a lot of histrionics.
There have been numerous directors who have done this but Lim makes it all seem so fresh and new. More importantly, he creates a space where his actors can give performances that are all enveloping. The attention he focuses are squarely on them, particularly Mark Cirillo who plays Ryan.
Cirillo has a scene 37 minutes into the movie and the scene is ten minutes long. The remarkable thing is the entire ten minutes are almost squarely on Cirillo's face. He has an entire conversation with someone and Lim doesn't really cut away. The range of emotions and thoughts that Cirillo expresses in that ten minutes are so layered and multi-faceted, often with him not having to say a word. Cirillo is in every scene of this movie and if there were any doubt in my mind if he could carry it or not, it was alleviated at the end of those ten minutes.
Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated But Contains nudity, sexual content and language (actually only one bad word).
Running Time: 1 hr. and 41 mins.