On May 7, 2011, Tom Bridegroom fell off a roof that was four stories high, hitting the hard pavement below. He died at the age of 29. His boyfriend, Shane Bitney Crone, was denied access at the hospital and was later shut out of the funeral. Crone created a YouTube video about it, which went viral. This documentary by Linda Bloodworth Thomason picks up on that and then charts the six-year relationship between Crone and Bridegroom, as well as the incidents of homophobia that they overcame, growing up in small Midwestern towns, and the ones they didn't. By the end, it's a testament of why people still need to struggle for gay rights and same-sex marriage, but, for the most part, the movie is a love letter to Bridegroom, a memorial to a great, young man and a truly beautiful spirit.
Shane Bitney Crone stars. This movie is from Crone's point-of-view. His interview about his life and his experiences is the driving voice of the entire story, which also includes Bridegroom's life and experiences. Crone didn't meet Bridegroom and become involved with him until late 2004 and early 2005, so much of Bridegroom's childhood is related through one or two friends. Unfortunately, Bridegroom's family, for the most part, is not interviewed. Most likely, they refused or declined to be involved.
As much, there is a huge gaping hole here. Yes, the grief and heartache that Crone felt at losing his de facto fiancé is horrendous, but the pain of Bridegroom's parents, particularly his mother, having to bury a child, which is something no parent should ever have to do, has got to be devastating. It's just a wonder how much Thomason tried to include Bridegroom's family, particularly his parents, in this documentary. Without them, there is a hollowness here, a one-sided story. Obviously, Crone should not have been excluded as he was from Bridegroom's hospital room and his funeral, but his parents lost their son. Painting them as homophobes fighting against love is perhaps unfair.
Recently, the documentary Valentine Road dealt with homophobia that resulted in a murder and somehow the filmmakers got both sides. It's bizarre that there's two sides of a murder, but if the filmmakers could get supporters of a child murderer to talk on camera, then why couldn't Thomason get Bridegroom's family? If there were concerted efforts to get his family, at least tell us that through title card or something. I'm left wondering what is Bridegroom's family's version of events. Without that, I'm rather indifferent to Crone's version.
Two Stars out of Five.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 19 mins.
Limited theatrical release.
Aired on OWN on October 27, 2013.