Monday, June 18, 2018

The Evolution of Same-Sex Love ( Man in an Orange Shirt)

How much has changed in gay love since the end of World War II? This story by Patrick Gale does give us the differences; but it also gives us the ways in which some things have not changed. Michael Berryman and his grandson Adam share important traits. For instance, both men try unsuccessfully to hide their true natures from Flora Berryman, portrayed in her later years with painful depth and sympathy by Vanessa Redgrave. Neither grandfather nor grandson is willing to commit to homosexual love, regardless of the date.

While Michael chooses to abandon his love life for a traditional family, one involving untold pain for both himself and his wife, Adam has the good fortune of meeting someone who knows how to win his heart and turn him from sex aps to real human contact. The sensitivity, the subtlety, and the patience required to do this is beautifully fulfilled by David Gyasi (who was astounding as Achilles in "Troy, Fall of a City.")

Of course, one of the necessary revelations for Adam is learning of his grandfather's story. I love the way the painting is used as a device for exposing Michael's denial of his own love. It also gives emotional depth to the heart-broken Flora.

Things fall in place in a way that does stretch belief. That Steve is an architect as well as an excellent lover is perhaps too fortuitous. I do love the archetype of the cottage as love nest. That Flora kept it rather than selling it also tells us a good bit about Flora. Even she, once disgusted by the idea of gay sex,  ultimately comes down on the side of love.

That the generation in between is missing stirs some curiosity. We never learn about Adam's parents at all. Does that not matter? What happened to Thomas? Did he move to France and find romance? And was the cottage used by Michael for other love affairs Flora did not know about?  How are we to take Caspar and his relationship to Steve? (I enjoyed seeing Julian Sands again. Long ago he made a film here where I live). That the story leaves us curious about many other possible relationships makes the story seem incomplete. Life is not quite as simple as Man in an Orange Shirt makes it.

There are a number of humorous witticisms in the story. How many caught the fact that the young lovers who find each other are Adam and Steve? There are other clever and touching details in this film. We should all be so lucky as to meet someone like Steve.

Note: As it turns out, there was once a second part, or middle part, that was left out, a part addressing the questions I have raised. Here is a marvelous interview with the author:


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