Set in Akron, Ohio, this film follows the blossoming romance between two college students who discover along the way that they have a shared, tragic past. The film in itself is pleasant to watch, and has won a lot of awards. It feels like a television drama that won’t change the world, but will pass the time. It has cute lead actors, some emotional turmoil, and resolves itself well.
The most striking aspect of the film, and what the rest of the review will focus on, is that Akron is the only lgbt film I’ve seen where being gay is only incidental to the film. This drama could just have easily have been between a young man and woman, and there would not have been much difference at all to the overall plot. My first impression was that this was quite nice. When I was watching it there was none of the discomfort that comes with typical LGBT films, the awkward coming out moments, explaining to the family, confronting prejudice etc. I say discomfort because for me, this type of cinema normally makes me think back to when I came out, or when I faced prejudice.
However, when I think about it further, this film feels more like a utopic film disguised as a television drama. There is tragedy at the start which carries the film, but for gay people the idea proposed that you can live your life without someone commenting or reacting in some way to the fact that you are queer is completely unrealistic (although in many cases it it desirable). I have mixed feelings about this because I enjoy escapism in films. So having a film where being gay is completely irrelevant to the story is a nice form of escape. Furthermore it adds something new to the range of LGBT films available. However, I now feel uneasy about it. I feel uneasy about it in the same way I feel uneasy about Disney films such as Pocahontas, and any film with the damsel in distress narrative. This is because as nice as the escapism is, it’s too unrealistic to society. I would have preferred the fact that the main characters were gay to have been mentioned in at least one line in the film. A passing joke, or some mention of wider gay society would have been nice. Instead it completely erased societal prejudice towards gay people, and also gay identity. I’m not angry about this (although I can imagine some people will be), but by the end of the film I felt slightly dissatisfied. I think I felt dissatisfied because I realised that the film did not mean anything. It was empty and difficult to relate to. As I said before, not tackling gay identity within society at all is new (some may say refreshing) to the genre of gay film. They’ve imagined a world where prejudice towards gay people does not exist, without making it the focus of the film. But that makes me question if it could be counted as a gay film at all. I recommend watching, but don’t expect to feel much afterwards.