In Bloom

by Kevin Taft
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Jul 11, 2013
A scene from IN BLOOM
A scene from IN BLOOM  

As gay equality becomes more and more a reality, it's only fitting that gay film begins to reflect that. For decades, gay narrative cinema has relied on the struggles for acceptance, the struggle to deal with disease, or the drama of coming out. While all of these issues are certainly important and relatable, there comes a saturation point where we wonder if gay filmmakers can tell any other types of stories.

But lately, filmmakers like Travis Matthews ("I Want Your Love") and now newcomer Chris Michael Birkmeier are altering that landscape. Birkmeier's first feature film "In Bloom" is a heart wrenching and honest look at the twilight of a young, gay relationship. The two young men in question, Kurt (Kyle Wigent) and Paul (Tanner Rittenhouse), are simply two guys in love in Chicago. The fact that they are gay is not a plot point, and there are no scenes of the boys coming out to their family, introducing their (gasp!) boyfriend to their clueless friends, or third act gay bashings. This is more or less the gay version of "Blue Valentine," where we get an authentic look at what happens when two young people fall in love but then realize they want different things.

In a way, there isn't much plot in "In Bloom," which isn't a bad thing. Kurt deals pot, while Paul works at a local convenience store. Paul longs for something more out of his life and tosses around the idea of moving to Paris to be closer to his family; Kurt is fine with the way things are. He gets up, does a few deals, drinks, smokes, goes to bed, rinse, repeat. For him, life is perfect. For Paul, it's a bit of a rut. So it's interesting that Kurt is the one that begins flirting with the idea of straying from his relationship when a client named Kevin (Adam Fane) starts to show interest.

Through all of this, a serial killer is on the loose in Boystown and is putting the city on edge. The nice thing about this film is that Birkmeier does not use this as a twist or a tragic bitch-slap to the audience. It's more so a way to illustrate that a death of sorts is coming -- something dark is waiting in the wings. That darkness is the end of a relationship.

This is more or less the gay version of "Blue Valentine," where we get an authentic look at what happens when two young people fall in love but then realize they want different things.

The lead actors here are very good, which is not always the case in gay indie cinema. Wigent and Rittenhouse are natural performers, and while both are good-looking, they are not cookie-cutter gym sculpted porn models. They feel like real guys experiencing (possibly) their first mature relationship.

The supporting cast is good as well, with the standout being Jake Andrews as Paul's supervisor Eddie. At first he seems to be one of those creepy "my life is my work" guys that skulks around making sure his co-workers are following all the rules. Eventually, he reveals a lot more about himself, and his performance becomes more layered because of it.

Birkmeier allows the relationship to play out naturalistically, and none of what happens feels staged for effect. Instead, it feels as if we are simply looking in at a relationship play out instead of the relationship playing out for us. The beautiful cinematography by Dustin Supencheck is lovely, and elevates the film with soft tones and naturalistic lighting.

This might not be the feel-good film of the year, but it's refreshing to see a gay relationship film be about the relationship and not the "gay." It's mature, beautiful, tragic, and hopeful in equal measure. And in that, we can all find something familiar.

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.


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