Andrew and Jeremy Get Married
Most of the films and books we enjoy centre around young, handsome gay men. Itís ironic that finally having a gay culture, this very culture only really reflects a very small minority of gay experiences. Heterosexual books, films and TV have a much more balanced view of life in all its ages. This film goes a long way to redress this balance. Itís not easy to say why it is such an engaging little documentary. You would think that an ex-con, ex-heroine addict, unemployed working class bloke having a gay relationship with an effete aging writer would hardly be riveting viewing. But it is. By the end of this film not only will you feel you know Andy and Jeremy, youíll want to know more about them.†
Jeremy is terribly well connected. A Colonial childhood with a very stereotypical distant father and over-indulgent mother, boarding school at three, he is just so very British. He lives in a world of art and gentle, cultured gay people.
At 48, Andy is some twenty years his junior. He has the face of a man down on his luck, only luck having saved him from homelessness. Ex-heroine addict, ex-con, unemployed and still living with his mother late into his 40s, he would be seen as one of societies failures. Yet somehow, he and Jeremy have found a connectionóIíd go as far as to say theyíve found that elusive connection weíre all ultimately looking for.
This isnít a lovey dovey film by any means though. Itís remarkably honest. The differences in their lifestyles is not brushed over. Everything they have is funded by Jeremyís money, and this inequality clearly creates some tension. Jeremy is open to all lifeís experiences; Andy prefers cider and a cigarette for breakfast and his old mates from the council estate.
The documentary follows them as they prepare for their commitment ceremony (I guess marriage is catchier for the title). And I say bravo to the City of London for providing such a wonderful ceremony, in City Hall, for gay people wanting to make this commitment. (I guess having a gay Mayor helps). I felt quite proud of being English watching this movie.
In its way this film is an important bit of gay history. Being 68, Jeremy has experienced life when homosexuality was illegal. He tried to get cured, visiting doctors and psychiatrists, even getting married in the vain hope that this would be the cure he so desperately sought. Iíve read it in books, seen it in movies, but Jeremy is a real person describing what it is like to have society find you illegal. That he is the sweetest, funniest and most loving chap only makes his story the more moving. He is what gay rights are all about.
Do give this odd documentary a go. I donít think youíll regret it. I shall be thinking about Jeremy and Andy for a long time to come and wishing them well. I hope they make it.
This documentary film made for the BBC is quintessentially English in that itís more about class than being gay. †It follows two men in the lead-up to their commitment ceremony, a frank portrait of a relationship interesting because Andrew and Jeremy are so very different.†
Together 5 years since meeting in a London gay bar, they come from opposite ends of the social spectrum.† Working class Andrew is a retired bus driver from Croydon, where he retreats three days a week when, I suspect, Jeremyís lifestyle gets too much.† Jeremy is an academic and writer, very much upper middle class, boarding school educated, living in Bohemian Chelsea.† Andrew has been in prison and is a former drug addict.† Though only 49 he actually looks older than Jeremy who is 20 years his elder.† Heís charming, tall and would be quite good looking if he didnít so obviously wear the effects of a hard life.†
You can see what attracts Jeremy, who admits friends say heís got a thing about men less advantaged.† Andrew might be less educated than Jeremy but heís quick and clever.† Itís less easy to see what drew Andrew to Jeremy.† Cynics would say itís his money; but you canít fake the very obvious affection between them.† Andrew & Jeremy are perfect examples of the adage opposites attract.† Despite their often painfully obvious differences what binds them together quite simply is love.†
Itís a fly on the wall documentary without commentary.† We follow them around as they go about their normal lives for a year: Gay Pride in Brighton, †posh picnics in the park with a Writerís Group and social gatherings in Jeremyís flat, where Andrew really is a fish out of water; Andrew meets up with his best friend from boyhood; they go on a very gay holiday to Palm Springs full of tension because theyíre staying with another of Andrewís lovers; an awkward stand-off when Jeremy fails to persuade Andrew to go ballroom dancing with him.
Jeremy was sent off to boarding school aged 3 where a sadistic teacher toilet trained children like puppies (shades of Jack Twist).† His mother actually went to the doctor because she was worried her little boy was too demonstrative and she loved him too much (this was the 30s).† No wonder he has hang-ups about sex and his body.† Jeremy struggled with being gay in the 50s when it was still illegal, even submitting to psychoanalysis under RD Laing.† He made a short lived marriage because thatís what men like him were told to do then (again Brokeback Mountain parallels).† Heís a romantic who says heís never had sex without feeling something for the other man.
Andrew came of age in the 70s but had no easier a time with his sexuality due to his tough working class background.† He went gay bashing even though he already knew he was Ďone of themí, and all his early sexual experiences were in toilets, casual anonymous sex without any attachments.
Interestingly we see Andrew interact (or not) with Jeremyís friends but never the other way round.† They bicker and squabble like all people in a relationship.† Itís a very personal film and sometimes I wondered why they allowed the cameras such intimate access (not sex but emotions), feeling uncomfortably voyeuristic.†
Itís a story about love and making it work on a daily basis.† It illustrates quietly without getting openly political the tremendous changes that have taken place since the 50s, men like Jeremy deeply repressed, filled with shame and self-loathing, trying to make a go of normal married life, like Ennis Del Mar.† Now gay people can have their partnerships recognised just like straight couples.† As a piece of gay history itís fascinating and as a personal account the filmmakers have been very fair to Andrew & Jeremy, allowing them to tell their own story without exploiting them.†