Tom Kirkman wrote and directed “Loggerheads” (Strand Releasing) and he has a film to be proud of. I have watched it twice. The first time I was duly impressed, the second time I was overwhelmed. It is profoundly moving work and a film that I am not likely to forget. As I was taken on a journey that held me spellbound by the beautifully interwoven trio of stories, I thought to myself that I was watching something really wonderful. On one Mother’s Day on the banks in North Carolina and in tow other places, everything comes together. The three intriguing stories all involve and affect one of the characters and as the stories begin to comer together, we face some difficult subjects—religion, homosexuality, love, intolerance, AIDS, adoption, and the desire for acceptance. It is the wonderful acting and the beautiful writing that allows there subjects to come together while still keeping the theme of the film—the need to be loved—in the forefront.
There is the story of Grace, the mother of Mark (the main character) who gave him up for adoption at birth and there is the story of the Austins, Robert and Elizabeth, who adopted Mark, and there is the story of Mark, a young boy who is forced to become a wanderer after his parents discover that he is gay. While on this odyssey, Mark contracts HIV and he has chosen to forego medication. The way he got HIV never explained except that there times when he traded his bodies for the things he wanted. In reality the three stories are all the same story but we do not know that until we are well into the film. Because the film is made out of chronological order events have passed for some before having passed for others. The director uses signature colors for each of the stories. As the stories begin to come together the emotional level is heightened and it retains its power through subtlety.
The three stories are each set up a year apart from each other. The first story, that of Mark, the wanderer, studying the Loggerhead turtles in a small coastal town that takes us into the overall film. We meet Mark when he is already comfortable with his life and his HIV status. The second story of the Austins occurs when the couple attempts to maintain an element of togetherness even after it has been torn apart by the leaving of the son. The third begins a year later and we meet a woman contemplating suicide as she struggles with ahaving given her child up and attempting to find him.
With it flaws even, the movie is very real. There are no “bad guys”–everyone does what he thinks is right. I thought that perhaps that this would be one of those films that preach and I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that I was the one who was left to do the preaching. I was allowed to draw my own conclusions and emotion was treated in a slow and leisurely matter-of-fact way.
Kip Pardue as Mark is a revelation. He performs beautifully and his good looks and poise make him intensely seductive. His good looks have worked well for him—he has been able to use them to his advantage He is lucky to find a man who can listen to him, be good to him, love him and understand him. When Mark and George talk on the beach and exchange a look, the emotion in that look is the high point of the film. The look says more than the entire film.
What a wonderful little film this is! It showed such love and has such heart and with each viewing, it seems to say a little more. I expect that it will say a great deal more to me many more times.