One of the first television to deal with gay men is “The Lost Language of Cranes” and it has finally been released on DVD. Based o a novel by David Leavitt if offers two metaphors of suppression and expression.
At the center of the film are three characters, all of whom have been suppressing their real feelings and selves. They are afraid of change because it would disrupt the balance of their lives. The inability to express themselves causes them to create their own language. Fear that the truth will tear their worlds apart is what the movie is about. As you watch the film you wonder if honesty is the best policy.
All that the characters fear about honesty actually happens. A family is torn apart and has no way to regroup. The mother is left helpless; the father has to live with thirty years of guilt and remorse. However they are free and they have a chance, if they want it, to rebuild their broken lives.
The film is devoid of action but even so there is a lot of suspense here. We learn about the results of keeping secrets and how uncomfortable we feel by doing so.
Philip (Angus Macfayden), a good looking young Englishman is in love with a very wealthy, manipulative American named Elliot (Corey Parker). Because Philip feels so strongly about his boyfriend, he decides to tell his parents that he is gay. His announcement brings about a crisis that he would never have imagined. His father Owen (Brian Cook) is also gay and he has kept this a secret from his wife, Rose (Eileen Atkins). Ever he tells his parents of his lifestyle, Philip discovers that his relationship with Elliot is not as strong as he thought and all of the characters find that their lives are now about to go in n a new direction.
What makes this such a wonderful movie is the cast but the script is somewhat flawed. At times it seems to be overly clinical and very awkward but the message it delivers hits you in the gut. The need for honesty should be the strongest impulse in our lives and this is what the movie delivers. It deals with an issue that we do not hear a lot about—when a gay person has a parent who is also gay. If honest communication were possible, this issue would not such a difficult one. One of the beautiful things about “Cranes” is that it shows actual affection that gay men have for each other. Other movies have shown gay men without showing the physical aspects of their relationships. Here we can see men as people who actually care.
This is not a gay love story but it is the story of a family and they deal and don’t deal with the truth. Both the father and son are gay and the mother lives in a state of denial. Philip exposes himself to his family and it doing so tears down the walls between them. The mother is very sharp but she also is very self-controlled and she refuses to face the truth. When she finally faces the real issues about her marriage, it falls apart.
Own, the father, has lived a lie his entire life. He is weak but he means well. He takes care of his family ad he genuinely loves his wife and son. But he is childish and he does not initiate, he simply reacts.
Philip, the son, is the catalyst. He opens the box and brings secrets out into the open. He appears as a wise ma who has a lot of iniative, both within the family and in his relationships outside of it.
The movie makes the broad suggestion that homosexuality is a result of both genetics and environment. Elliot is the adopted son of two gay men and Philip’s biological father is gay. Elliot’s roommate is a social worker tells us that a child’s life is molded by his environment. If a child is left alone, he starts to imitate a crane.
The drama is low-key. Everything is muted and this is a brave movie. The direction and the writing are wonderful and it is interesting as a contribution to gay cinema because of the realistic way it deals with gay men. Dealing with the many facets of coming out, keeping secrets, sharing life with others and being true to oneself, the extremely complex plot helps us to understand more about ourselves.