|An iconic image from Very Natural Thing|
David (Robert McLane aka Robert Joel) is a fairly conservative gay teacher who used to be in the seminary. He falls hard for a guy named Mark (Curt Gareth), who tells him right off the bat that he isn't much for romance. In spite of this David moves in with Mark, and tries to follow his lead by having a more open relationship. It's not a surprise when things don't work out, but it is a surprise as to which man moves out first ... When David meets a nice new fellow, he's somewhat gun-shy. A Very Natural Thing was, to my knowledge, the very first theatrical gay-themed movie (after The Boys in the Band) that was not a porn film. There are erotic scenes in the movie, and some quick glimpses of full frontal nudity, but nothing out and out pornographic. Christopher Larkin's goal in making the film was to present homosexuality unapologetically, and to show how gay couples could be very similar to straight couples, what with issues of monogamy and such, and yet also different in some ways. Of course, it is a little off-base in suggesting that a gay man must be conservative and/or religious in wanting to be monogamous. The film is very low-budget, and the appealing cast consists of talented amateurs who lack spontaneity and are overly earnest at times. Jay Pierce makes a nice professional impression as David's sophisticated friend, Alan. David is apolitical, but scenes from the actual Gay Pride March are incorporated into the film when he meets up with Jason (Bo White), who gently argues with David on gay politics and turns out to be separated from his wife (Deborah Trowbridge). In one interesting scene Jason's cast-off spouse wants him to visit her family but he tells her he's spending the weekend with David, and the pain and disappointment is etched tellingly in her face as she bravely wishes him well. It could be argued that there ultimately isn't that much to A Very Natural Thing -- one critic stated that it proved that homosexuals could be just as boring as heterosexuals -- but there's something compelling about the movie in spite of it. I found the ending extremely moving, but whether it was because of the music, memories of my youth, the fact that so many in this period would die of AIDS (just when so many, as in this film, were feeling good about being gay), or everything put together, I don't know.
Verdict: Imperfect but groundbreaking and in its attitudes towards gay men a quantum leap forward from The Boys in the Band. ***.