Last night, PJ and I watched a documentary called The Man You Had in Mind, which tells the stories of five gay couples from the Portland, OR, area who have been together for varying lengths of time: one year, seven years, ten years, fifteen years, and fifty years. Here’s the only trailer I could find on YouTube:

I really like the idea of this documentary. There at least seem to be so few records of queer lives and relationships that any addition is more than welcome. And this documentary’s focus on what gay male relationships are like in the age of fighting for marriage equality is both interesting and timely.

In particular, I think the filmmakers have chosen their couples well. To some degree, I’m sure they were selected with some degree of randomness — whoever was willing to participate, for example. But the range of couples is really good. There is the range in the length of their relationships, for example. But there is also clearly a range in socio-economic backgrounds, in religious backgrounds, and in experiences. Some of these men have children from previous marriages; it’s interesting to see how they accommodate this into their same-sex relationships.

I also liked the documentary’s examination of the challenges of being in a gay relationship. Many of the couples talk about issues with monogamy and the choices they have made in their area of their lives. Some talk about issues relating to healthcare and inheritance. Many of them have continuing issues with their families, especially parents or parent-figures who are less than accepting.

The movie also features a great song by out singer/songwriter Eric Himan, “The Man You Had in Mind.” It’s a great theme song for the documentary, which uses it well.

And finally, I really like the documentary’s willingness to interview some of these men’s parents or parental figures. Two of these parents/figures are less than supportive of the men’s relationships. These rather homophobic family members are given plenty of room to talk about their viewpoints and feelings. While I’m sure my family would say many of the same things, it seems like it would be really hurtful to hear your loved ones saying these things in a movie. It’s really tough to watch, and these family members (of course) come across as ignorant, selfish, and unsympathetic.

But there are some problems with the film, I think. I wish it had been structured differently. It presents each couple’s interviews, scenes from their lives, and in some cases interviews with family members and friends. Each couple’s story is therefore told in isolation from the rest. I would have liked it if the documentary had been structured around themes or issues instead. After introducing the five couples, why not have the rest of the film present their takes on marriage, sex, commitment, family, etc. I think it would have been more interesting that way and would have helped with some of the pacing. While each of the couples was interesting, I found myself feeling bored at times when the film seemed to linger as the two men planned a reception or shopped for used furniture. I guess I would have liked more direct coherence.

That’s not to say that this film doesn’t make a clear political statement. It clearly and impressively makes a stand for marriage equality by simply showing these couple’s lives together. I would have liked more focus in its narrative, more pointedness, I guess. But it is an interesting film and I definitely recommend it.

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