Premise: Two cowboys (Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal) fall in love while herding sheep for a summer in Wyoming. The two continue their relationship in secret as they go on with heterosexual lives.
What Works: Brokeback Mountain is a gorgeous film. The settings are shot with care and capture the natural beauty of the environment. Its story construction is brisk and never bogs down in the drama. The strongest elements of the film are its characterization of the cowboy community and lifestyle and the homosexual romance. Rarely are these components seen in modern cinema so honestly. The filmmakers behind Brokeback Mountain have the vision to combine these two elements and then portray them on film in ways that are not exploitative nor sentimentalized or stereotyped caricatures, but as normal human behaviors and subcultures to be treated with respect.
What Doesn’t: Aside from the homosexual element, the basic story of Brokeback Mountain is essentially a by the numbers romantic triangle plot. It is rather predictable and the turns in the action do not hold much surprise.
Bottom Line: Brokeback Mountain is almost a textbook example of good filmmaking. In some ways, it is a little bit too textbook and its story does not disrupt the conventions of genre very much. The audacity of the filmmakers to make a film about gay cowboys and not shy away from the topic or subject it to sentimentality or ridicule is very commendable.
Episode: #82 (January 22, 2006)