Movie review: Men Like Us

By Peter Calder

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Filmmaker Christopher Banks' film is a compelling tale into the lives of gay men. Photo / Supplied
Filmmaker Christopher Banks' film is a compelling tale into the lives of gay men. Photo / Supplied

Conceived as a response to decades of local and international research showing that gay men are at disproportionately high risk of depression and suicide, Banks' talking heads documentary may be relatively standard issue stylistically, but the content is riveting.

An opening sequence playfully but meaningfully depicts the profusion of images of heterosexuality that saturate our media culture, cleverly setting the scene for the stories of isolation that its nine interviewees will tell. "I was told early on," says one, "that homosexuality was a choice and it was a bad one." Many speak of being shunned by friends when they came out.

Banks, a writer for the gay press and producer for 90s chart-toppers Deep Obsession, has assembled a dream team of subjects, who are by turns (and often simultaneously) clear-eyed, funny, self-deprecating, radiantly self-revealing and remarkably honest. And it's no mutual self-affirmation club: one criticises the gay community's tendency to be "good at sex and bad at intimacy", though the charge would stick in the heterosexual world as well.

The nine men come from different backgrounds: a Maori from Kawerau, a former Catholic priest, a twice-bereaved environmental activist, a Malaysian Chinese immigrant and a speed-skating star make up barely half the list. What unites them is an extraordinary level of articulateness about the experience of being a gay men in a society that is far from accepting of sexual diversity.

Banks' cutting back and forth between the stories is slightly distracting. Some of the transitions are jarring and although the soundtrack (Diana Ross; Mental As Anything's Live It Up) is great, too many interviews are washed with jarring background music.

But despite technical flaws, it's a powerful and moving human document and the timing of its release, as the same-sex marriage legislation heads to Parliament, is perfect. It's a matter of some regret that the audience who might gain most from the film - the intolerant and bigoted - will give it a wide berth, but it remains an assertion of identity for an often-marginalised subculture.

Stars: 3.5/5
Cast: Todd Karehana, Stephen Rainbow, Rob Calder, Raymond Wilson, Karl Moser, Ivan Yeo, James Hope, Michael Bancroft, Blake Skjellerup
Director: Christopher Banks
Running time: 90 mins
Rating: M (sexual and drug references)
Verdict: Clear-eyed and articulate expression of the experience of gay men


- NZ Herald

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