You Are My Sunshine (2021)

You Are My Sunshine
Director: David Hastings
Writer: David Hastings
Cast: Steve Salt, Jack Knight, Charles O’Neill, Ernest Vernon, Charlie Clarke, Rosemary Manjunath, Simon Bamford, Jonathan Butler
Part of: Transition International Queer Minority Film Festival
Seen on: 27.8.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia

Tom (Steve Salt) and Joe (Jack Knight) meet when they are just teenagers, Joe having just moved to town. They connect instantly and quickly fall in love. But it’s the 70s, and homosexuality is still alien to most people. Decades later, Tom (Ernest Vernon) and Joe (Charles O’Neill) are still a couple, but the fallout from their youth is still notable in the strained relationship Joe has with his sister Ethel (Rosemary Manjunath). But Joe is eager to reconcile.

You Are My Sunshine is a sweet film, albeit a little too dramatic for its own good. While I would have liked a little less tragedy, and I didn’t like that it seems to put homomisia entirely into the past, I rather liked it overall.

The film poster showing Tom (Steve Salt) and Joe (Jack Knight) standing next to each other with pictures of the other cast members arranged in a strip above their heads.

You Are My Sunshine obviously didn’t have much of a budget, but it’s trying not to let that slow it down. What did slow it down a little, though, was that the acting just wasn’t that good (probably also a question of budget, and of directing). Awkward line-delivery and bumpy pacing are practically in every scene.

And yet, the emotionality of the story finds its way to the audience. One does root for Tom and Joe, and dreads the inevitable discovery in the past. In the present, one hopes that Ethel will have a change of heart and that things will end happily. It was a little harder for me to swallow the great revelation [SPOILER] that Joe has cancer and will shortly die [/SPOILER]. It just put more drama into the story than would have been strictly necessary, and it kept us from having an all around happy ending which I resent in particular in queer films. There are too many sad gays in our movies.

Tom (Steve Salt) and Joe (Jack Knight) having a picknick.

The second narrative problem I saw was the dual structure of the film, or rather the way it constructs homomisia as something of yesterday. If people today still face it, it’s because of relicts from the past. It constructs homomisia as personal opinions that will surely die out with the old people who still harbor these opinions, because it’s not an issue with the young folk today. And that’s just plainly wrong: homomisia is a structure, not just personal opinions, and both young and old people are affected by it – and act on it. It will not die out simply because the older generation will die, too. It is here to stay unless we actively do something against it on a systemic basis. [Yeah, maybe I’m too much of a sociologist here.] That being said, of course things have changed since the 70s. At least homosexuality isn’t outlawed anymore. And it’s important to acknowledge that progress as well.

Overall, it is not a bad film. It often manages to be quite sweet, albeit a tad hamfisted at times. And despite my protestations against its drama, it did get a tear or two from me.

Tom (Steve Salt) and Joe (Jack Knight) on their hill.

Summarizing: emotional and sweet.

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