Reputedly completed for a paltry $7,000 and already a sizable hit on the lesbian and gay festival circuit, TOGETHER ALONE works surprisingly well, given the obvious cinematic limitations of filming a straightforward if expansive conversation--one which takes place in a single setting, no less. As the film opens, two attractive strangers are seen leaving...read more
Reputedly completed for a paltry $7,000 and already a sizable hit on the lesbian and gay festival circuit, TOGETHER ALONE works surprisingly well, given the obvious cinematic limitations of filming a straightforward if expansive conversation--one which takes place in a single setting, no
As the film opens, two attractive strangers are seen leaving an LA nightclub after picking each other up. They arrive at Bryan's (Todd Stites) modest studio apartment and, after some unseen sex, drift to sleep. Suddenly Bryan awakens with a jolt--he's had a disturbing dream involving Bill (Terry
Curry). When Bill awakens, however, Bryan discovers that his new bedmate has lied; his real name is Brian. Bryan, who's HIV-negative and hasn't had anal intercourse in several years--if ever--is very upset; if Brian lied about his name, what else is he lying about? After all, in a rare moment of
abandon for Bryan, they've just had unprotected sex.
Brian is disturbingly cavalier about practicing safe sex, admitting that he's never been tested because, as a perennial top man, he's never had to. As their conversation shifts from AIDS to sexual identity in general, Brian lashes out at the militant drag queens intent on outing the world. He
hates labels like straight, gay, bisexual--at least during the 1960s and 70s you could explore your sexuality without being pigeonholed. Brian, not surprisingly, soon reveals that he enjoys sleeping with both sexes.
Bryan describes himself as yin, the feminine, passive principal in nature, to Brian's yang, or masculine, active principal; in Chinese cosmology, the two combine to produce all that comes to be. Underscoring this notion of oneness, Bryan and Brian discover that they've each had the same disturbing
dream: they're on a big wooden raft on a river, navigating from islet to islet; Bryan leaps into the water, followed by Brian, who has difficulty swimming; suddenly the water has turned into air, and it's Brian who's at ease, whereas Bryan has difficulty flying; after watching the moon catch fire
and feathers swirl around them, they both drift down to a tropical paradise.
Their mildly combative conversation continues. After Brian accuses Bryan of being incapable of making an emotional commitment, the latter recounts his one great love, Michael, a college roommate. Unfortunately, Bryan was closeted at the time--he had to flee to Europe to be liberated--and failed to
act on his feelings. Brian, it turns out, also harbored a great love during college, for a strong, independent woman who combined the masculine and feminine traits he admires. Unfortunately, she angrily dumped Brian when, before proposing to her, he confessed his attraction to men.
When Bryan--who has, not surprisingly, pinned his romantic hopes on Brian--teasingly offers to have sex with Brian, the latter demurs. When pressed on the subject, he drops a bombshell: he's married, with one child and another on the way. Suddenly, the spectre of AIDS reappears; Brian, Bryan
exclaims, has a cut on his penis. Fueling Bryan's fear is the fact that his own brother recently died of AIDS, contracted during an unprotected sexual encounter with a prostitute. Tired of defending himself, Brian decides it's time to leave, and the two part on ambivalent terms.
The shared dream may be a ridiculous conceit, but giving Brian a bisexual rather than gay orientation is a shrewd one; it allows filmmaker Castellaneta, in his feature debut, to touch upon topics--abortion, marriage--otherwise at some remove from the gay experience (though, obviously, the queer
experience is not as hermetic as that comment might suggest). It's also a wee bit calculated, and the film treads a very thin line between public service announcement and drama. Also, while both characters emerge as reasonably complex, contradictory figures, they share certain traits--white,
educated, emotionally stunted--that hardly mark them as alternative gay role models, mirroring, instead, the film's target audience. TOGETHER ALONE also suffers from a notable lack of passion, a trait which, along with films like THE LIVING END and SWOON, is a disturbing hallmark of the much
heralded "New Queer Wave."
These considerations aside, TOGETHER ALONE is well worth seeing. The film is beautifully photographed and seamlessly edited--at no moment do the visuals succumb to the static nature of the material. True, Wayne Alabardo's score is intrusive, but there's a genuine dramatic arc to the material.
Unlike the majority of contemporary American films, both independent and mainstream, which start off strong and quickly wane, this one grows more interesting as it goes along. (Adult situations.)