Panamanian filmmaker Jorge Ameer has produced three compilations of short queer movies under the title Straight Men and the Men Who Love them, a theme he comes back too in this new soap melodrama The Family Tree.
It’s the story of Victor Gardel (Keith Roenke) a lonely single workaholic who spends his life rescuing and looking after strays at the animal shelter. His only other passion seems to be celebrating the holidays, and especially he goes all out at Christmas time.
This year in the park a few days before Christmas he rescues a ‘Santa’ who has just been mugged. Roy (MIchael Joseph Nelson) who pleads with him not to phone either the Police or a Doctor, so kind hearted Victor tales the stranger back to his apartment to sleep it off.
When he wakes up a couple of days later he confesses that he is a homeless Brit (without a hint of an accent however) who has overstayed his visa and is now undocumented. Just a few days later in one of the several plot twists that really stretches one’s imagination, Victor suggests that a way out of the dilemma , is that they get married to each other.
Both men are allegedly straight although Victor always has puppy dogs for Roy, but just two days later they are wed and back home drunk and are consummating the marriage. Roy insists this is a one-off as a thank you, and now in the bath together, they vow to be good friends forever. The conversation actually gets slightly morbid with the pair of them talking about what would happen to their relationship when one or other of them died. It’s actually a very big hint of the melodrama ahead.
Flash forward to next Christmas and Ray fesses up that he had fallen in love with Victor’s best friend Alina (Anaïs Lucia) and will be moving with her. Cue brokenhearted Victor and his very long face.
The flash forward to the next Christmas, Victor’s life has stood totally still, but Roy asks him for a big favour. He and Alina have been unable to conceive because he has low sperm count, so asks Victor to step up to the plate. It evidently works as the following Christmas she’s pregnant and about to give birth.
If that part seems so hard to believe, then just wait until the twisted finale.
At 2 hour 31 minutes running time this movie is at least 45 minutes too long, as Ameer insists on letting his camera linger on scenes way after they are over. However it is the obvious micro budget however that seems to hamper it all and not just the technical aspects (the sound is atrocious in parts). The actors stifled performances seem to convey that they are as un convinced about the script as we are.
Possibly if you are a fan of gay men(!) carrying torches for hunky heteros then you’ll still enjoy this film when it gets its release.
Ameer’s best known movie to date is another LGBT drama Sabor Tropical in which an uninhibited Matthew Leitch just couldn’t keep his clothes on which on this occasion seemed to make us forget the “limp’ plot.