6. Y Tu Mamá Tambien
“Y Tu Mamá Tambien” is a coming-of-age film by Alfónso Cuarón that takes place in just a couple of days in the lives of two friends, Tenoch and Julio, who share a sexual experience with an older woman, as well as with each other.
The story is about exploring the young boys’ sexuality, which leads them outside of their comfort zone and those imposed by societal standards. The two boys meet Luisa, a free-spirited woman in her late 20, during their summer trip and they propose to take her to a secluded and magical beach, with the ulterior motive to have sex with her.
Throughout the film, the two boys share a lot of personal information with one another, like having slept with each other’s girlfriends in the past. At the same time, the omnipresent narrator makes a number of references on the contemporaneous politics of Mexico.
While this seems to be disconnected from the plot, it serves as a backdrop to further understanding the sociopolitical circumstances that implicitly affect the characters’ decisions. After Julio, Tenoch, and Luisa ultimately all have sex together, the two boys end their friendship.
The trip to the secluded beach feels like a trip on the boys’ sexual awakening when they find that they can take pleasure in one another, breaking the barriers of their sexuality. It is thought-provoking how the two friends make revelations that could potentially hurt each other, but it is only after the boys share an intimate moment together that they are driven apart.
This sort of experience could have liberated them and opened up a new chapter in their friendship, but since the story is about two teenage boys in Mexico in 1999, machismo and homophobia prevail, once again blocking the characters from being the people they truly desire to be.
Bennett Miller’s 2005 drama, mostly known for Philip Seymour Hoffman’s exceptional and career-defining performance as Truman Capote, is about the creation of Capote’s last book, “In Cold Blood”. Capote finds out about a family getting murdered in Kansas in 1959 and decides to write a book about it. He meets the two murderers (Perry Smith and Dick Hickock) and grows very close with one of them.
Capote’s confusion is not intrinsically sexual and doesn’t lie in the fact that he fell for a person of a different sex, one that he wouldn’t normally fall for, as it is well known that he was gay. His confusion lies in the fact that he grew feelings for Perry Smith, a murderer who killed a family of four and was sentenced to death. His conflicted emotions emerged from the compassion he was feeling for the convict, and the fact that his sense of ethics were shaken the closer he became with Perry.
Moreover, another matter that caused him conflict was the fact that his story could not be properly finished, or at least nowhere near as successful, if Perry wasn’t executed.
Therefore, it is also his internal struggle between publishing a nonfiction novel, the first of its time, and worrying about Perry’s fate, two facts that are conflicting in reality. And this was ultimately the case, as shown in the film; Capote chose the survival of his book over Perry’s life, and that is something he had to live with for the rest of his life.
8. American Beauty
One of the most critically acclaimed films of 1999, Sam Mendes’ drama is about a man (Lester Burnham) in the suburbs who has a midlife crisis and wants to relive his lost youth.
In order to manage that, he quits his job, buys a sports car, and starts buying weed from his daughter’s boyfriend (Ricky Fitts), who also happens to be his neighbor. His father (Colonel Frank Fitts) mistakes Ricky’s suspicious meetings with Lester for booty calls, and in a rage of homophobia, kicks his son out of the house.
Sex is an aspect of the film that affects all of the characters in different ways. In the case of Colonel Fitts, sex is not that prominent, except for the moments where he is complaining about gay people who shamelessly parade their lifestyle, making sure his homophobic rant is heard.
The colonel is a retired Marine with a conservative background, an emotionally estranged wife, and a mania for discipline. When he thinks he sees his son orally pleasuring another man, his disciplined universe is disturbed. He is even more disturbed when he finds himself kissing the very same man who will turn him down, Lester.
Fitts’ sense of discipline is to tame his own desires, more than anything else. When those desires are unleashed, he doesn’t know how to handle himself. Eliminating the object of his desire was the only thing that made sense to him in order to cope with the situation. Murdering Lester is Fitts’ only way to deal with the shame of his homosexuality and the shame of his unrequited sexual advances.
The colonel is one of the most confused and oppressed characters discussed here. As the film unravels, it is all the more clear that he gradually has less control over his life, emotions, and desires, and instead of accepting his true self, he tries to eliminate every trace of it. Kissing Lester seemed like the only genuine act he performs in the whole film, which he soon regrets, as it means losing control.
9. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Stephen Chbosky’s film deals with issues that one goes through before reaching adulthood, among which is realizing and coming to terms with one’s sexuality. Although the film is not particularly queer, the story of Brad and Patrick – the latter of which has come to terms with being gay – deals with some of the struggles of puberty, like the need to construct a sexual identity.
Brad is a high school jock whose lifestyle does not allow him to express his sexual preferences, as he’s surrounded by macho jocks that would bully anyone digressing from their own standards. Patrick, on the other hand, the boy he hooks up with, is openly gay but agrees to keep his identity a secret for the sake of Brad.
Being closeted about one’s sexual preferences in high school is a problem that many people have to endure in order to avoid getting bullied, especially when they are part of an “alpha” group, such as the athletes’ group. Brad’s struggle to come to terms with his sexual identity is representative of the constant negotiations for survival one has to go through in the harsh social environment of high school.
10. Plan B
Although it’s probably not the most polished movie ever created, it is an eye-opening movie regarding confused sexuality. Two straight Latin American men, in a macho culture such as that of Argentina, sleep with the same girl – one is her boyfriend (Pablo) and the other one is an ex-boyfriend who is still hooking up with her (Bruno). Bruno decides that he wants her back, and since sleeping with her can’t win her over, he decides to win over Pablo so that the two break up.
The filmmaking style is very theatrical, with the camera lingering in one place, offering space to the actors’ improvised dialogues and awkward silences, as the two men grow closer together. The teaser shots focus on the two characters below the waistline, and are executed in a direct manner that aims to reflect the sense of hesitation in getting to know another person’s body.
The raw realness in Marc Berger’s directing style, and in the two protagonists’ performances, add in authenticity. It is not a coincidence that the two characters nostalgically refer to the time when they used to be 12 years old, as the emotion the film wants to convey is a confused, part-romantic, part-sexual feeling a 12 year old would get if they fell in love with someone for the very first time.
What is also striking is that, throughout the film, the two characters exhibit a physical awkwardness with one another, like they were touching a person for the first time. Ultimately, the ending of the film proves whether their reactions were part of a big farce or true love indeed.
Released in late 2016, the African-American film by Barry Jenkins is nothing like the usual Blaxploitation films, but it poses existential questions about being a black boy raised in the ghetto with homosexual urges.
The story follows the life of Chiron who found solace in the companionship of a drug dealer named Juan, who became his only impression of a father figure. Chiron is bullied at school and called a “faggot” from a very early age, something that will make him wonder and question who he is.
One day, Chiron meets Kevin, who is the only person in school that cares for him. As the years go by, the two boys grow closer together and eventually have a sexual moment by the beach. This experience will follow Chiron for the rest of his life, without any hint of openly addressed homosexuality. Chiron grows up to be a drug dealer himself but he battles with admitting his feelings for Kevin, which is one of the reasons why this film is so intriguing.
Men of color are still marginalized and have higher chances of getting assaulted for expressing homosexual behavior than their white counterparts. Also, being gay doesn’t fit the profile of a drug dealer, who needs to be imposing and who needs to exhibit macho behavior (which is associated with a certain sexual preference) in order to be respected in their social environment.
Therefore, Chiron seems to end up in a dead end, having to choose between the man he wants and the man he wants to be. This is why the ending is so heartbreaking, because, given the life that he chose, the only catharsis he can have is seeing Kevin again. Only by accepting his true self can Chiron be free, and his choice will determine the kind of life he wants to lead.