While it looks like this Pride month there won’t be too many parades, that doesn’t mean one can’t celebrate to the fullest these times allow. From Queer Eye’s foray into Japan to the rustic setting of Northern Italy in the stunning film Call Me By Your Name, LGBTQ narratives and travel stories have increasingly become melded into seminal works. Travel through these LGBTQ-centric films that not only allow audiences to follow the characters’ personal journeys, but also explore the environments these stories come from, be it Queen Anne’s 18th century English court or the lush hills of Coonoor.
Kapoor & Sons (2016)
This coming of age family drama tugged heartstrings, and brought the conversation of kids coming out to their families to mainstream cinema. Set in verdant Coonoor, the film beautifully essays what happens when fault lines start widening, and old hurts foster. An ageing grandfather, a failing marriage, sibling rivalry, and a perfect son, with only one secret, all get together in the beautiful hill-station. As the very good-looking cast unravels the story, one sees glimpses of lush, rolling tea plantations, a mysterious cemetery, and heart-stopping views of the quaint valley. Fun fact: the lovely colonial bungalow where the movie is shot can be rented by travellers (post-lockdown, of course), and there’s a restaurant there too.
Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. (2007)
Six couples purchase a package-deal honeymoon to Goa—complete with a pink bus, cheesy anchor, and a ‘love’ bobble-head on the bus’s dashboard—what could possibly go wrong? Through the six couples, the 2007-film deals deftly with traditional ideas of love and marriage, and addresses the elephant in the room: a closet-gay man marrying out of pressure from his family, and another who’s discovering he’s gay while on his honeymoon. Goa, with its stately churches, palm trees-lined coastal roads, sunset cruises, and pristine beaches, acts as a backdrop.
Barry Jenkins’s ‘Moonlight’ is a coming-of-age movie that follows the life of Chiron—in three different stages. The lens examines the identity of being a black gay man in a 1980’s Miami—a consortium of passing fancys and gang-wars. Falling far from the clutches of any stereotype, Moonlight, as rightfully labelled as ‘proudly black and refreshingly queer’ by The Guardian, is about the complex sense of identity and sexuality that Chiron struggles with. We see Chiron as he struggles through an exterior of toxic masculinity expected and extended by the hood he grows up in, all the while allowing us glimpses into the crushing loneliness and longing for the love he’s yearned for his whole life.
– Sanjana Ray
The Danish Girl (2015)
Gerda (Alicia Vikander) and Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) seem perfectly matched. The former, a portraitist, and the latter, a landscape artist, are happily married and make a living in 1920’s Denmark. The film weaves in some stunning Danish imagery: Einar’s landscapes drawn from her childhood memories of fjords and marshlands, the symmetry of identical row houses in Copenhagen, and the cobblestoned alleys of Nyhavn. But as the story progresses, so does their relationship. Einar’s female alter ego, Lili Elbe, who is invented for a fun experiment, soon paves the way for a much larger transformation.
– Pooja Naik
The Favourite (2018)
Travel to Queen Anne’s tumultuous 18th-century court in this thrilling tragicomedy, period piece, which explores the rumours that the disinterested monarch was gay. Colman’s heartwrenching performance of Queen Anne won her an Oscar, and the drama’s other leading actors Rachel Weisz (Lady Sarah Churchill) and Emma Stone (Abigail, Lady Sarah’s destitute cousin) assume the roles of her manipulative and jealous lovers with equal aplomb. But, most importantly, the film transports the viewer to the off-putting grandeur and creeping malaise that plagued 18th century England’s upper echelons, a time and place where duck racing, pigeon shooting, and eating pineapples took precedence over leading a troubled kingdom.
The Birdcage (1996)
Drink in this visual cocktail of South Beach, Miami, set in an apartment above a thriving drag theatre. Robin Williams plays Armand Goldman (the story is based on a 1979 French Film, “La Cage aux Folles”), the gay owner of the establishment. What ensues is a bizarre and comedic ruse centred around the premise that Armand and his lover of 20 years, Albert (Nathan Lane), must pretend to be straight in order to placate a conservative senator, who seems as if he will soon be their son’s father-in-law. While the theme of the film is out-dated, the performances are not.
Sudhanshu Saria’s film on a couple of road-tripping men tipping the scale of their friendship is lush, visually and otherwise. Like in Brokeback Mountain, the setting of this forbidden tenderness is appropriately uphill, in this case, the stunning Western Ghats. Hilly vistas, car rides, music and treks populate childhood friends Jai and Sahil’s weekend getaway, but also stolen moments that question the questions brushed under a linear urban existence. What makes Loev (pronounced Love) special is that this linearity is not just one of sexual conformity—Sahil already has a boyfriend—but of puzzling, repressed emotions, of the very complexity and plurality of human existence.
Travelling through French Canada during the 60s’ and 70s’ with Zac, a sensitive teen coming to terms with his sexuality, and the often-hurtful affections of his middle-class family, can feel at once explorative and familiar. Jean-Marc Vallée’s film throws you into the chaos and colour of coming of age (in) Quebec City—a factory-working, homophobic father; a brood of better-accepted brothers; a scant-speaking mother; and in the middle of such overcrowding, a teenager who prays for a ‘cure’ for his out-of-placeness but ends up singing David Bowie to his mirror instead. This is the film for you, if you’ve known the pain and power in confronting a parent that struggles to understand you, as you struggle to understand yourself.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Queer film is nothing short of prolific today, but it took a mainstream cowboy romance to be an early barnstormer. In this classic, two ranch hands Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhall) tumble into a tumultuous dalliance in rural Wyoming, recreated by director Ang Lee in Canada. Ennis and Jack’s feelings are dangerously out of time for the backward social mores of 1960s America. Only in the remote grasslands of Brokeback Mountain do the lovers embrace true self-expression. An epic study on masculinity and loneliness, Ennis and Jack’s silent longing makes for wrenching, exquisite cinema.
Happy Together (1997)
Lai (Tony Leung) and Ho (Leslie Cheung) move from Hong Kong to Buenos Aires, and like all foolish lovers hope that a new city will salvage their battered relationship. After they break up, Ho resurfaces after he is beaten up by a client. Loyal, pensive Lai nurses his promiscuous, spoilt lover back to health and the Argentinian city bears witness to their tumult. Tungsten lights cast moody shadows in alleys, breathless tunes from a tango bar keep Lai company as he guards its door. These scenes are juxtaposed with enchanting aerial shots of Iguazu Falls, the waterfalls at the Argentina-Brazil border that the couple almost visited together.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
French star Alain Delon played Tom Ripley with inscrutable elan in the 1960’s Purple Noon. However, it was Matt Damon’s collaboration with English director Anthony Minghella that delivered a definitive version of the murderous sociopath. Commissioned by an American magnate to snuff out his wayward heir, Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), Damon’s Ripley lands up in seaside Italy, his beige pallor glistening white in a sea of affluent, bronzed vacationers. Ripley’s growing fascination with Dickie and his jet-setting expat lifestyle hints at sinister eroticism, delightfully heightened by the louche and luxuriant coastal townscape.