Tribeca Review: "Bridegroom"

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Linda Bloodworth Thomason, creator of Designing Women, makes her documentary feature debut with the emotional journey of Shane and Tom, two young men in a loving and committed relationship. Unfortunately, their love is cut short by Tom’s accidental death, and his partner finds himself facing the failure of same sex marriage protections that leave him completely shut out and ostracized. Bloodworth Thomason sheds light on the often-overlooked struggles that same sex couples face as a result of marriage inequality.

“Bridegroom” is a sentimental (most of the time heavy-handedly so) common sense documentary to the gay marriage debate, which is exactly the reason why it will fail to convince anyone who hasn’t already been won over. There is a love story in here that turns into tragedy, and no matter how many times director Linda Bloodworth-Thomason interferes with what should be a powerful story, she can’t kill it too much. But where it should be as much a persuasive argument, it instead makes you want to play devils advocate.

It begins with a what-if. As a heterosexual if you were told that who you loved was wrong and you must be with men, how would you feel? That’s the rational question. But the answer is something we already know. Society dictates what is acceptable and no matter how much you want to live your own life, it can stand in your way if you ever ask it for anything. They say homosexuality is an afront to God, it’s quite possibly a mental illness, ect.

Thomason is aims to change minds through the heart here, asking how could anyone be against the pairing of Shane and Tom? Shane is a kid from Montana who basically anyone with eyes could tell from a young age was gay (he even had terrible panic attacks while identifying with Tom Hanks in “Philadelphia”). He was also bullied terribly to the point of contemplating suicide. Tom was a kid from Indiana. His sexuality might have been a bit more ambiguous but during his time in military school, he came out as gay.

The two meet each other in California and become instantly smitten, completing each other well even though Tom’s family is against the union, at first even violently so. Shane and Tom planned on getting married one day and having a family but in addition to not being able to, Tom dies at the hospital shortly after falling off a roof and Shane, not being family, is neither allowed to be in the hospital room to see him or even attend the funeral at the wishes of Tom’s mother.

It’s hard not to like these two. Even when Thomason is hammering their loving union home with montages and endless number of people saying they were perfect, it’s easy to see that they were a harmless, loving couple with big dreams for the future. Just as one of the commentators here asks the question “who would ever be against love?”, it’s hard not to cynically remark that you would actually be surprised what some people are against. “Bridegroom” approaches this in an emotional way but it’s hard to see it changing many of the minds of the people who are just as emotional in their beliefs.

3 out of 5