Can we maybe forget for a second that this is the big 'Gay Cowboy' movie? The publicity that Brokeback Mountain has gotten because of the concept has done the movie a lot of good, propelling it into the spotlights and making it a truckload of money, but the movie deserves to be judged on it's own merits, which it has plenty. Brokeback Mountain is an honest, tender movie about two people struggling with their love for each other in a world that does not accept even the thought that such a love could exist.
Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) are cowboys. They don't go around shooting people and rescuing damsels in distress, but instead they attend to the core business of cowboying, which is to herd large groups of animals and keep them safe from harm. One summer they work together on a job near Brokeback Mountain, where thousands of sheep have to be taken care of. The boys do their job without much enthusiasm, since they are in this mostly for the money, but all the boredom is broken up when feelings start to develop between the two. Rather deep feelings too, which the two find out when, during one particularly cold night, they crawl up to each other and things happen.
Remember that we are in cowboy country, in the sixties, and feelings between men are something that is generally frowned upon. So when the summer is over and both men go back to their regular lives, they try to forget what happened and concentrate on their wives. But it's hard to shake the feelings away just like that, and when Jack visits Ennis four years later, when both of them are married with kid(s), those feelings resurface in a big way. They have to face the fact that they are the big love of each others lives, and it is especially Ennis who has big problems with this. He does not want to admit to himself that he is gay, especially not since when he was a kid his father showed him the murdered body of a man who was rumoured to be gay as well. Ennis knows how dangerous it can be to admit a different sexual orientation, and besides, he's married, so why change things? But subsequent visits from Jack only light the fire even higher. Plenty of heartbreaking moments follow, as the two men try to hide their feelings from the rest of the world and try to get to grips with the fact that their love with probably never find be more than an endless yearning for each other.
When Brokeback Mountain started playing at the theater where we watched it, I was most intrigued by Heath Ledger's accent. I'm sure that his southern drawl is authentic, but to me it sounded most like he had a big wad of tobacco in his mouth. In the beginning this bothered me a bit, but it didn't take long. You see, Ledger is so magnetic in his portrayal of Ennis Del Mar that you are willing to forgive him such eccentricities. He is the troubled heart of this movie, a man who just wants to lead a normal, simple life, and who sees this dream shattered when he finds true love in an unexpected (and maybe even unwanted) place. Ennis' feelings for Jack are real and there is no denying that this is one of the most romantic movies out there. Sure, it's a romance between two men, but so what? What could have been gimmicky, is just the engine for what might become one of history's most tragic love stories. Director Ang Lee has done a stellar job with his actors, giving them all the room to develop their characters, and even thought they may have been a little uncomfortable during the more, um, intimate moments, both Ledger and Gyllenhaal give it their all. But it's not just these two men who give great performances, it's also Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway as the unfulfilled women in the main character's lives. And let's not forget Brokeback Mountain itself. It doesn't happen that often that a location plays such an integral part in a movie, and Brokeback Mountain could easily win the Oscar for Best Location, if such a thing would exist.