BFI Flare 2015 Opening Night Gala: I Am Michael

by Maryann O'Connor on 19/03/2015


Justin Kelly’s I Am Michael is somewhat of a rarity in the world of LGBT film, in that it charts a man’s ten year descent from knowledge and love to denial, hate and heartbreak. Michael (James Franco) is a writer and trailblazing activist in the year 2000 along with boyfriend Bennett (Zachary Quinto), rejecting narrow definitions and narrowmindedness left and right until an existential crisis rocked his belief that ‘Gay’ and ‘Straight’ were mere social constructs.

The film is based on Benoit Denizet-Lewis’ experience of knowing Michael Glatze, who he wrote about in article My Ex-Gay Friend, a man who had once said ‘Christian fundamentalists should burn in hell’ but who became one of those fundamentalists he spent so many years cursing and decrying.

It would be so easy to despise Glatze but the way his story is unfolded by Justin Kelly and Stacey Miller is kind to him, in the way that those being wronged often are kind; hoping and praying (bad choice of word?) for the person who is lashing out in such an unrestrained manner to find some peace despite the destruction they are wreaking. Franco, despite the sneers which have started to follow him around, provides a relatable and believable performance. Quinto’s Bennett is likeable but constructively or not, I wanted him to get very angry, which he did not.

The content of the film goes to the very root of sheer awfulness and suffocating pain, Glatze’s fear of death (both parents died before he was 20) and his loss of good health through constant anxiety left him vulnerable to the dark whispers in the night, the voices which repeat the worst things we have heard anyone say about us and everything we are afraid of.  The varying extent to which we all internalise such hate has been illustrated just this week by comments from Dolce & Gabbana, who felt the need to espouse the sort of views usually associated with Christian soldiers and not fashion designers.

These comments and the continued presence of people in the world who live their lives hating others, and themselves, means that I Am Michael serves as a reminder of the need for more understanding and compassion, especially for someone like Michael. A good choice of opening film for BFI Flare 2015.

Maryann has awarded I Am Michael four Torches of Truth 

4 torches

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