Bridegroom: Tribeca Review
Linda Bloodworth Thomason's documentary presents a human face on the issue of gay couples' legal rights.
It’s guaranteed that there won’t be a dry eye in any theater showing Linda Bloodworth Thomason’s deeply moving documentary about the plight of Shane Bitney Crone, who lost his lover in a tragic accident and was prevented by the deceased’s family from even attending the funeral. The film - -inspired by a 2012 YouTube video posted by Crone that went viral -- showcases the personal side of the story while also putting a spotlight on the hot-button issue of gay marriage. Screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it was introduced by no less a personage than President Clinton, Bridegroom is destined for a long life on the festival circuit and beyond.
Benefiting greatly from the seemingly endless amounts of personal video footage shot by the two men, including Shane’s “video diary,” it chronicles the relationship between the Montana-born Shane and the Indiana-born Tom, who met in Los Angeles while separately pursuing show-business careers. The former had a troubled adolescence, suffering from panic attacks instigated by his burgeoning awareness of his sexuality and his frightened reaction upon seeing the AIDS-themed film Philadelphia. When he finally summoned the nerve to write a love letter to his best friend, it only resulted in him being bullied by his schoolmates.
Tom, on the other hand, seemed to lead a charmed life, fueled in part by his drop-dead-handsome, movie-star looks. He attended a military academy then Vassar, where he was friends with future Oscar winner Anne Hathaway. When he later met Shane, the pair formed an instant bond and became inseparable, traveling the world together in low-budget fashion.
It’s Tom’s accidental death from a fall off a rooftop that fuels the film’s principal dramatic element, as Shane is prevented from seeing his dying lover in the hospital, only finally gaining entry thanks to the kindness of his nurses. Despite his previously warm relationship with Tom’s religious mother, he finds himself completely ostracized by the family, his presence in Tom’s life virtually erased.
The story is told in compelling sympathetic fashion by Designing Woman creator Thomason, with extensive comments by various friends and relatives of the couple as well as Shane himself, who movingly and articulately expresses his profound grief. Such moments as when he describes making his final farewell to his dead lover via the secret code of tapping that they used to express their love in public are simply shattering.
The film is not without its humorous aspects as well, such as an interview with Shane’s great-grandmother, who says of the couple, “That’s right, they’re Romeo and Romeo, get used to it.”
The final scene, in which Shane visits his lover’s grave -- it’s only then that Tom’s all-too-ironic last name finally is revealed -- is but the final heartbreaking moment in this film that has the power to move hearts and minds. Thomason tellingly ends the film with an extended shot of the Supreme Court building, silently making the point that this form of injustice possibly is on the verge of being corrected.
Venue: Tribeca Film Festival
Production: Mozark Productions
Director/screenwriter: Linda Bloodworth Thomason
Producers: Shane Bitney Crone, Allen Crowe
Executive producer: Shane Bitney Crone
Director of photography: James W. Roberson
Editor: Nicolas Romolini
Composer: Bruce Miller
No MPAA rating, 79 minutes