“THE SUM OF US”
Crowe Plays Gay
“The Sum of Us” is a wonderfully effective domestic drama from Australia. It is funny and moving at the same time. It is a rare father and son story with a gay theme that makes no compromises for a straight audience. It is more about family values than anything else. It is not about one of those families you read about in fiction or imagined by Christian fundamentalists but a family based on unconditional love, untraditional in make up but based on love. Love takes all forms in “The Sum of Us”. There is the love between son and widower father, the infatuation between Jeff, a plumber (Russell Crowe) and new boyfriend, Greg, Newly blossoming love between Harry (the father) and a girlfriend he met through a dating service and the love between Harry’s mom and her lover. Mary.
Because of competent acting and a literate, sympathetic script which exposes the homophobia of everyday life as well as the way the movie shows how a father can love his gay son, the film succeeds wonderfully. It’s a sort of gay crossover movie for everyone to enjoy. As we see a beautiful treatment of how a dad works to protect his son from AIDS by teaching him about the necessity of love, safer sex and honest communication, we get the kind of feel good movie that is so hard to find.
Harry learned about homophobia the hard way. His mother lived with her female lover for most of her life. These scenes shown in flashback are wrenching especially as we watch Harry break the lovers up because they are too old and frail to care for each other and how he separates them, sending his mother off to a rest home where she dies. The movie also deals with what we have lost to AIDS but through analogy.
The early scenes of the film are very funny. When Jeff brings Greg home to meet his dad, it is his dad who turns on the charm and fits right into the situation. As the movie moves between comedy and tragedy, it does so beautifully. The entire cast is more than wonderful but it is Harry, the father, (Jack Thompson) who owns the movie. His performance is brilliant as he plays a softy whose love for his son is returned, in turn. Harry is stoic about his son’s gayness. Most of the time, his face shows tolerance but he is a man of wit and understanding and intelligence who loves his son above everything and is supportive of everything his son does. Russell Crowe is fully able as the son but he has tough competition from Thompson and cannot command the same empathy that Thompson does.
This movie is a study of the degrees of tolerance in family situations. The dominant emotion is love. The exploration of the father-son relationship is beautiful and on the whole the entire movie is a treat.
When Harry says, “Love is the greatest adventure of all” repeatedly you feel the love with which he says it. He accepts his son being gay but doesn’t like the word and rather than saying his son is gay, he says he is “cheerful”. He explains s love for his son by saying “Our children are the sum of us”.