Heath Ledger plays the part of Ennis Del Mar. He’s the cowboy that people claim isn’t gay but just happened to fall in love with another man. He is the mumbly cowboy. You know the type; they don’t quite annunciate and are somewhat soft spoken. He is the quiet reserved type who keeps mostly to himself. This is Ledger’s best performance to date and will be difficult to top in the future.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jack Twist. He’s the one who has experiences with other men and is more open about who he is in that regard. He more easily accepts that part of himself too. Perhaps he is more naive in that he thinks it can work out in a time where homosexuality was grounds to be fired and beaten to death. But even knowing that was a possibility; he didn’t really try to hide his feelings for Ennis. I always expect a good performance from Gyllenhaal, but this one certainly stands out among the best.
The movie isn’t about sex or lust or anything like that. It is about falling in love and what two people do to try and make it work. They just happen to both be cowboys. It is an adaptation of a short story by Annie Proulx. The screenplay is amazing. It is definitely an emotional story. It is heartbreaking and if you are prone to tears, this one will make you cry.
The score is eerily perfect, as if you hear the plucking of the cowboys’ heartstrings. It is fitting and doesn’t distract from what is happening onscreen like so many scores do these days.
The cinematography is certainly not lacking either. You see the breathtaking vistas in Wyoming or Texas and you truly want to visit them in person. You see the harsh features on the characters, not disguising their flaws but highlighting them. Showing that they are in fact real people. You always hear the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words.” That is the approach the cinematography takes because it speaks volumes.
The story unfolds in a way that allows you to see how love grows. You see their relationship develop from the beginning until the end of the film. It is as if we have been invited to a rare glimpse of their sacred relationship, as long as we are willing to walk several hundred miles alongside them.
Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway gave great performances as the wives of these two cowboys. And they certainly shouldn’t go unnoticed. One is more observant and picks up on what is happening while the other seems to be a more distant wife. They help Brokeback Mountain not only examine a complex relationship, but also how that complicates other relationships as well. We are given cinematic clarity and desolate directness that is rare in movies so much so that it stands out in this one.
Honestly, if it isn’t nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and numerous other Oscars, I will be truly shocked. Ang Lee did a superb job.