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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a mature, emotionally complicated film that isn't appropriate for kids. The movie is focused on a lifelong relationship between two male cowboys. Their meeting and discovery of mutual desire at film's start is pictured in a rough-seeming sex scene (with fairly explicit activity); from then on, their physical relationship is less overt. They argue, wrestle, and occasionally come to sexual-tension-filled blows. Characters curse (including use of "f--k" and homophobic slang), smoke, and drink hard liquor in a "manly" manner. Married couples also argue, as wives come to resent their husbands' "other" interests.
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What's the story?
When cowboys Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) meet during a month of sheep ranching in Wyoming, they share lust, passion, and genuine affection -- though in 1963, they can't imagine their feelings defining themselves. Their silence lasts for years: Each goes home, Ennis marries his girlfriend Alma (Michelle Williams), Jack longs for Ennis. They agree to meet again and then feel unable to stop. They can't articulate their feelings, only marvel at their own passion and tell their families they have gone "fishing." Alma discovers the truth (which she keeps to herself); horrified and angry, she silently watches him leave every few months and return with no fish. The men can't acknowledge their relationship as a choice and a commitment, only as a "thing."
Is it any good?
BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is a thoughtful, lyrical, eventually frustrating examination of two men's romance over many years. Though Ennis and Jack never call themselves "gay" or "queer," they do love each other and share a sexual relationship. The film is as much about silence and repression as it is about passion. It's Alma's silence that makes the film feel so serious. Her pain is neither exquisite nor elegiac. It's only hard. As soon as she sees the men embrace, Alma becomes the tragic bearer of knowledge.
Ennis' lack of language, initially clench-jawed mumbling, is eventually subtler, especially in his relationship with his daughter, Alma Jr. (at 19, played by Kate Mara). She observes her father closely and does her best to keep him from taking up -- after his divorce from her mom -- with a perky barmaid. "You don't say much," notes the girlfriend as the two sit together at a table, watching Ennis lean over jukebox. "But you get your point across." Brokeback Mountain gets its point across, too: The men are anguished. They act on their pain in different ways, and the big wide Wyoming landscape -- so mighty, so simple, so overwhelming -- reflects their efforts to be together, to stay apart, to resist expectations and to succumb to them.