Gay movies go HD, with TLA releasing its first UK Blu-ray (alongside Shelter). This 2003 movie has undoubtedly become a bit of a modern gay classic, largely because it’s one of the few queer cinema efforts that has the slickness of a lot of Hollywood movies, and so it’s easily accessible even to those who cringe at the thought of anything low budget or arty. Latter Days manages its slickness largely because while it was made for very little cash, a lot of the crew have worked extensively on mainstream films and TV, including writer/director C. Jay Cox, whose job immediately prior to Latter Days was writing the Reese Witherspoon rom-com Sweet Home Alabama.
The movie follows Aaron (Steve Sandvoss) and Christian (Wes Ramsay – who many may recognise as one of the lab techs in CSI: Miami), two young men from very different worlds, whose meeting dramatically affects each other’s lives. Christian is young, gay and proud, but also a little bit vacuous, flitting from sexual encounter to sexual encounter with little going on under the surface. Aaron meanwhile is all substance and no fun, as he’s just starting his time as a Mormon missionary. However, while his church is stridently homophobic, Aaron is hiding an attraction to men.
When Aaron and Christian first meet, it appears their differences will keep them far apart – even if Christian has made a bet he can sleep with one of the Mormons – but as they get to know one another, they start to fall in love. That causes tumult in both their lives, especially Aaron’s, as acting on his gay feelings risks him being excommunicated from his church and shunned by his family.
While Latter Days does have a few minor problems, it is undoubtedly one of the best gay rom-coms around, largely because while a lot of queer movies are generously included in that genre, this one is actually both romantic and comedic. Plus it genuinely makes you care about the characters at its core. Latter Days also manages to slip in a few star cameos, with Amber Benson (aka Tara from Buffy), Jacqueline Bisset, Mary Kay Place (Big Love), and even Joseph Gordon-Levitt showing up in small roles.
The only problems arise when its Hollywood-style slickness butts up against some of the difficult issues it tries to deal with. Aaron attempting to wrestle with the sexuality and the places that takes him when his family finds out get pretty dark. The film obviously wants to show that underneath its gloss and occasional cheese it’s engaging with real issues, but as what’s gone before has been relatively light, it tends to make things feel more melodramatic than realistic. However it’s only a minor problem, as the film is still effective and makes you think about the issues it raises, even if they don’t 100% fit with the rest of the film.
It all pulls together largely because you care about Christian and Aaron and you want the best for them, which is a pretty impressive feat for any rom-com. Each is on a journey you want to work out well, ensuring that even when it starts seeming a little melodramatic, it’s nevertheless moving.
I’ve always found the DVD of Latter Days annoyingly grainy, so it’s great that it scrubs up well on Blu-ray. Although with its low-budget it was never going to look and sound like the latest Transformers movie in HD, the picture is nice and clear, with little grain and good clarity. Likewise the audio has been given a bit of a scrubbing, so that’s pretty good too. Alongside some okay special features, it’s a nice package, and it’s great to see some gay movies getting a good HD treatment.
Overall Verdict: Moving, romantic and funny, there’s a good reason why Latter Days has quickly become a gay classic.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac