"Jack, I swear…" (Ennis Del Mar)
Every time I start writing a review of a really great film, I don't know what to begin with. Especially when it is the best film of 2005. The fact that it was robbed of the Best Picture Academy Award doesn't prevent 'Brokeback Mountain' from being perfect in every filmmaking aspect. When I first saw it, I regarded it more as a gay love story but now in my opinion it transformed just into a love story, free from gay-straight labels.
What's the story?
Two cowboys, the impetuous Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and the reticent Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger), are tossed together during the summer of 1963, sheepherding at the Brokeback Mountain and trying to vanquish forces of nature, commonplace for the wilderness, but they fail to eliminate just one, born in their hearts. However, the summer ends, and both of them direct their steps into different lives: Jack is a rodeo star wannabe, while Ennis is planning marry someone called Alma (Michelle Williams), but the two men's paths tend to intersect over years.
Was it made look good (by those who work in pre- and post-production or behind the camera)?
The adapted screenplay by Diana Ossana and James Schamus, who also produced the film, is fantastic and totally deserves the Oscar they had gotten. As I was re-watching the movie, I paid attention that the events on-screen were masterfully connected: every scene was a reason for the next one, and there is no moment that you would like to cut out; every single second mattered. The tagline says: "Love Is a Force of Nature", and the beauty of the film is bolstered with the magnificent views (although the story unfolds in Wyoming, the movie was mainly shot in Canada). Ang Lee the director manages to capture those charms of nature, as well as characters' feelings, which of course was also reached by great cinematography. Furthermore, the sorrowful original score by Gustavo Santaolalla is another valuable thread into the transcendent story of love.
What about acting?
The film was honored with three Oscar nods in acting categories for Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Williams not without reason. Although it is difficult to identify who of two cowboys was the center of the story and I tend to consider them being the leads equally, Heath Ledger delivered his greatest performance ever (if we forget about the Joker): Ennis' reserved looks, his self-sufficient disposition, hardly decoded accent (for me, understanding his talk was quite a challenge) are not easy to portray but Ledger did it with such honesty and understanding, that the person he created on screen stops being just an imaginary figure and becomes someone real. Gyllenhaal gives a breathtaking performance as well, embodying quite an opposite to his co-star's character.
Michelle Williams as a betrayed wife was so authentic: her reaction when Alma half-opens the truth about her husband is still before my eyes as the actress manages to render her confusion and despair. Anne Hathaway, as Jack's spouse Lureen, was very fortunate to take part in this project because from that moment she has been considered a serious actress. Randy Quaid didn't disappoint as the cowboys' employer at the beginning of the film. We also got a glimpse of Kate Mara who played 18 year old version of Ennis' daughter, and this actress seems to appear in a few decent movies now.
Even though the cast was brilliant (brilliant indeed!), the characters are so alive not only thank to the actors. 'Brokeback Mountain' is pretty much an insightful character study, started by Annie Proulx, the writer of the short story, continued by the screenwriters and other members of the crew. Another great point may be observed when you see how the main characters and their wives change over the decades — the makeup department gave themselves the trouble to age actors very well.
What did it make me feel?
This film is one of the most touching romantic stories. Forget about the fact that the leading characters were not heterosexual. It doesn't matter. What really affected me is that Jack and Ennis never openly said that they loved each other, but most importantly, it was seen that they really cared for each other. The most heartbreaking scene, besides the ending, is the parting as their summer at Brokeback ends, when Ennis, so self-restrained all the time, gives vent to his feelings since no one can behold his grief. I've never seen anything like this. Beautiful filmmaking.
Any chance of re-visiting?
It is a rather depressing piece but I love it to bits. Yes.
Ang Lee's heartfelt direction and fearless performances by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal make this film a classic and probably one of the most romantic motion pictures ever in a raw eye-opening sense.
Rating: 5 stars (see what that means)