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"Brokeback Mountain" Movie Review

A Truly Memorable Love Story

By

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal star in "Brokeback Mountain"

© Focus Features
"Brokeback Mountain" is an extraordinarily special film. One of the most touching love stories in decades, “Brokeback Mountain” slowly weaves its magic, moving forward at a languid pace and ever so gently working its way into your heart.

There’s no rushing into the film, no need to fill every moment with dialogue. Some movies take their time laying the story out and settling over the audience. “Brokeback Mountain” is one of those films.

The story that unfolds is fairly simple and straightforward. It’s the summer of ’63 and Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) meets Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) when they’re both given jobs guarding sheep up on Brokeback Mountain. Jack’s open and friendly, a real talker who loves to play the harmonica. Ennis, on the other hand, is an introvert who closely guards his feelings.

All alone up on the mountain (with just sheep and horses for company) the handsome young men open up to each other. One night after they’ve had too much to drink, Jack invites Ennis into his tent to get warm. In an artfully staged scene, Jack places Ennis’ arm over his body which causes Ennis to pull away. Furtive looks and murmured reassurances quickly escalate into a life-changing sexual encounter. From that one night of shared passion blossoms a 20-year relationship. Both men will marry, have children, and yet never once will they stop loving each other. Because their love would never be accepted in that time and in that place, they can’t openly show how they feel and must keep it locked inside except for a few times each year when they escape their other lives and find each other up on Brokeback Mountain.

Heath Ledger gives an astoundingly raw performance as Ennis Del Mar. Ledger’s hinted at this kind of talent before, but with “Brokeback Mountain” every single line is delivered perfectly and every movement has meaning. Ledger brings this conflicted cowboy to life with his startlingly realistic portrayal of a man caught between two worlds. Jake Gyllenhaal is equally terrific as Jack Twist, the more optimistic of the two lovers. Gyllenhaal continues to stack up an impressive resume and this is one of his finest roles to date.

In the supporting role of Ennis’ wife, Michelle Williams practically steals the film while appearing in just a handful of scenes. Williams is marvelous as the wife who struggles with the truth about the real love of her husband’s life.

The cinematography is breathtaking yet understated. The natural beauty of the land never upstages the performances or the story. Directed by Ang Lee and adapted for the screen by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, “Brokeback Mountain” is the most compelling piece of storytelling of 2005.

I’ve heard it said that just because it’s a gay cowboy love story with two heterosexual actors going for it in the physical sense, “Brokeback Mountain” is being awarded higher reviews than it deserves. To that I say don’t be ridiculous. Judge the film on its own merit and not whether the actors are homosexual or the story’s about a gay couple or other such nonsense. Would I watch “Brokeback Mountain” again? Yes, and I have. Is it because it’s a gay cowboy love story? No, it’s because “Brokeback Mountain” comes close to perfection in telling an engaging story. The movie worked for me because I was emotionally affected by the story and by the characters. It’s, simply stated, a beautiful film. Granted, it’s not a subject or a storyline everyone is comfortable with. But if you’re willing to give it the opportunity to win you over, you'll find “Brokeback Mountain” to be an absorbing, heart-wrenching, romantic tale for adults.

Not once did I glance at my watch during “Brokeback Mountain,” a true sign the movie never yanked me out of its world. I didn’t even realize how much I loved this film until a few days after I saw the screening. Then it suddenly dawned on me just how much this film stuck with me. Give “Brokeback Mountain” a chance. It’ll sneak up on you. It did me.

GRADE: A

"Brokeback Mountain" was directed by Ang Lee and is R for sexuality, nudity, language and some violence.

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