I Am Michael
dir Justin Kelly
scr Justin Kelly, Stacey Miller
prd James Franco, Vince Jolivette, Michael Mendelsohn, Joel Michaely, Scott Reed, Ron Singer
with James Franco, Zachary Quinto, Emma Roberts, Charlie Carver, Avan Jogia, Daryl Hannah, Lesley Ann Warren, Leven Rambin, Daniel Polo, Juan Castano, Devon Graye, Evie Thompson
release UK Mar.15 flare, US 27.Jan.17
15/US 1h38
I Am Michael
Not so straight story: Franco and Quinto

roberts hannah warren
flare film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
I Am Michael With remarkable restraint, director Kelly and his cowriter Miller tell a provocative true story without taking sides. Written and directed with an artistic flair that cuts beneath the surface, this is a story that raises questions without overtly answering them. It's also the kind of movie that will divide audiences and generate hopefully positive dialog.

In 1998 San Francisco, Michael Glatze (Franco) is an editor of a gay-activist magazine, outspoken about equal rights and the dangers of the religious right. When his longterm boyfriend Bennett (Quinto) gets a job in Nova Scotia, Michael moves with him and they bring young Tyler (Carver) into their relationship. Then a series of events makes Michael question his life and faith. Embracing Christianity, he leaves Bennett, renounces homosexuality and begins training to become a pastor. And at Bible college, he falls in love with Rebekah (Roberts), who isn't concerned about his past.

Franco delivers a nuanced performance that captures the seemingly conflicting aspects of Michael's life. There's real chemistry with Quinto, who gives Bennett a sharp wit and gentle soul even in the later scenes when Michael re-establishes contact. Michael's conversion into a true believer is portrayed as a searching journey rather than a rash decision, and there are clear shadings from both Franco and the filmmakers about his deeper unresolved feelings.

The screenplay never takes a simplistic route, keeping scenes off-balance to show the jarring collision of ideas and instincts both between people and within each one of them. It sometimes feels episodic, leaping into the various chapters of Michael's life without quite finishing the previous sequences. So there's also the sense that the script is trying to pack too many incidents into its brief running time. And Michael's thoughtful dialog is packed with striking commentary that rings both true and false, depending on preconceptions.

This approach gives the film an almost documentary style, simply presenting each element in Michael's life and then letting the audience draw its own conclusions. Yes, it's easy to see where the filmmakers' sensibilities lie, but only if we agree with them. Others will see a very different story here, grappling with the idea of nature and nurture, and also the question of where religious faith comes from. And by telling Michael's story in such a straight way, as it were, the film forces us to explore issues from all-new angles.

cert 15 themes, language, innuendo 13.Mar.15

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