Brokeback Mountain

Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist are cowboys in 1963 Wyoming. They are tough, hardworking men, not educated or sophisticated but honest. They are well adapted to the deprivations of their chosen profession.

They also happen to be in love.

Needless to say, this presents them with a problem. Rural Wyoming in the 60’s wasn’t home to the most permissive of attitudes–my guess is that it still probably isn’t. And darn it, cowboys aren’t supposed to be gay. If anybody finds out about the two men’s relationship, things could get real unpleasant for them.

The men themselves only have a vague idea of what’s happening. Ennis, who’s introverted and careful, claims it’s something “that grabs hold of us every once in awhile.” They spend one summer together on Brokeback Mountain, watching a herd of sheep. At the end of that time, they agree to part ways and leave the relationship behind. They both move on, getting married to women and having children. Four years later, however, Jack looks up Ennis and they begin a lifelong affair, taking “fishing” trips far out into the wilderness.

Brokeback Mountain is beautiful film that wins you over in several ways. First and foremost are the performances. Heath Ledger is heartbreaking as Ennis, the cautious stoic who’s content with the periodic trysts and afraid of what might happen if they try for anything else. Jake Gyllenhaal is terrific as Jack, the more reckless partner who wants more. These actors were well known before. Now they should be stars.

The photography is somewhat muted like the tone of the movie, but taking full advantage of the natural beauty of the setting. I also have to praise the make-up and costuming. They realistically aged the two young actors over the course of the story.

And lastly Brokeback Mountain is one of the better films in Ang Lee’s up and down canon. He directs it with a European pace but the story is all American. Think of those long lingering shots and protracted pauses as reflecting the speech and lifestyles of the American West.

Brokeback Mountain is hands down the best film of 2005.


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May 2006
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