Latter Days is a wonderful story about a young traveling Mormon missionary who moves in next door to a very out-of-the-closet young and single gay man. Their encounters turn into a friendship that in turn becomes something more, and while the missionary Elder Aaron Davis, wonderfully played by relative newcomer Steve Sandvoss must come to terms with the religious conflict his life has created, his new love interest, also well-played by Wes Ramsey (Sam Spencer from Guiding Light) as Christian Markelli, must also do some soul searching as he comes to an understanding of the shallow life that he has built for himself.
Addressing the clash between being gay and religion, specifically the Mormon faith, Latter Days reminds us that not all families will come to accept their gay children. By the end of the movie it is clear that the now excommunicated Aaron must seek out and embrace a new family, one that accepts and celebrates human difference. (Note that this does not give away any plot, there never was any doubt as to the outcome if you are familiar with the Mormon faith, and it is not the central part of the plot, as much as finding one’s own self is).
Writer/director Jay C. Cox (who also wrote Sweet Home Alabama) bases his depictions of Mormon life on his own experiences with the church. One of the missionaries who travel with Elder Aaron, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, best known for the tv series Third Rock From the Sun exemplifies the intolerance and fear that drives many people to lash out, when someone they know comes out unexpectedly. Some parts of the show are weak, like when the mother becomes aware of the ‘bet’, (I won’t say more so as not to spoil a plotline) I just found that highly unlikely she would find that out, but the film has few weak parts that can be overlooked though, as the rest of the film more than makes up for it.
An intelligent script, overall fine acting and above quality direction make this the gay feel-good movie of the year. Additional fine acting performances include Jacqueline Bisset as the restaurant owner where Christian works, and Mary Kay Place as Aaron Davis’s intolerant Mormon mother.
I was sorry to see the film end, it would have made a great mini-series as I became interested in the two main characters, and would have loved to have seen more of their developing relationship. This is a gay romance film, complete with drama and comedic moments.
One of the more memorable lines include Christian’s moment of baring his soul, “You want revelations engraved in gold and angels trumpeting down from heaven. What if this is it instead? Me telling you I love you, right here in the snow? I think that is pretty miraculous.”
Another of the more moving moments, for those of us who can relate to familial alienation due to orientation came during the church excommunication when Aaron realized he had to choose one side, but there really wasn’t a choice because the two options involved either being true to himself or denying himself.
Elder Farron Davis (Aaron’s father) says “This isn’t easy for me Aaron. But in light of your abnormal and abominable state, and your refusal to see that you’ve been duped into some hogwash alternative lifestyle, I wish my shame was enough for the both of us. Not to mention the shame you’ve brought to our church, our family, our ancestors…”
Aaron replies, “Wait a minute, our ancestors? Dad, your grandfather had at least a half dozen wives, and that goes for every single person in this room. I’d say we were the original definition of ‘alternative lifestyle.'”
“Are you calling us hypocrites?” his father retorts. “Oh no,” is the response, “we’ve gone way beyond hypocrisy, Dad; now, we’re just being mean.”
For any person coming to terms with their orientation, or for those whom have had an incredible journey coming out, or even for those who wish to become publicly true to theirself, this movie is a bittersweet lovestory that reminds us all that any journey of self discovery contains both something gained and something lost. I heartily recommend it.
Note that Amazon lists only the R-rated version as being widescreen.
This review also appears on the Adamant Sun.