Big Eden

Ladymol's Review

Okay, I admit. Iím a fool for romance, and this film hit every single romantic bone in my body. Itís just delightful.

Henry is a New York artist, gay, lonely and looking for something. On the eve of his first showing he gets a call that his grandfather in Montana is ill. He returns to the small, close-knit community of Big Eden to nurse him back to healthóa community he left 20 years before.

Henryís life has been on hold since he was last in Big Eden. He fell in love with his best friend, Dean, but his love wasnít returned.

So, Henry is back, but so is Dean. Now divorced from his wife, and with custody of his two young sons, Dean seems to Henry everything he once was, and 20 years crumble away as the two of them seem to be heading down the same heart-breaking road.

However, Big Eden is not what it seems. Outwardly it is a typical, red-necked American small communityóthe kind that is traditionally shown as lynching those that are different, not embracing them. That unfair stereotype is turned on its head here as Henry finds love and acceptance in the most unlikely of places in this community. For Henry has a secret admirer. If ever a sweet, affecting love story between two men was shown on screen, itís that between Henry and Pike, the Native American who owns the General Store.

I swear, if you donít want to pack up your bags and go and live in Big Eden after watching this film, then you are just way too cynical. This film is the definition of feel good (despite the number of times I cried!).

If you like this film, donít miss the Cap Iversen series of novels: Arson, Silver Saddles and Rattler, reviewed on this site. There is a wonderful scene in the film, a dance, that seems to have been lifted right out of the novels. It makes me wonder whether the acceptance Pike and Henry have in Big Eden isnít another example of the revisionist history of the settling of the West, which weíve seen in books like these.

Absolutely wonderful. Do not miss this movie. Check out the Big Eden website here - great screen caps and trailer.


Cerisaye's Review

This is a gay film like youíve never seen before.† Itís about ordinary men well into their thirties and, although two are quite attractive, main character Henry Hart is balding, bespectacled, with a bit of a paunch.†

Then thereís the setting.† A small town in Montana.† Henry, a successful artist, leaves New York to go home to look after his ailing grandfather.† Big Eden isnít the stereotypical redneck hick town weíd expect.† No, itís a welcoming, friendly place with remarkable tolerance towards gay people.†

Henryís problem isnít lack of acceptance.† When the local matchmaker discovers Henry is gay, she happily sets him up with likely lads.† This is a community where sexuality doesnít matter:† love is love; weíre all people, with our own problems.† Take away the bigotry and life still isnít easy for a gay man, no more than for a straight one.† Sometimes we make our own troubles and failures.

Henry is ashamed of what he is, and that makes it difficult for him to love anyone.† Although heís accepted in Big Eden, he canít accept himself.† Henry canít even tell his grandfather (who knows anyway) heís gay.† Heís been chasing a dream for half a lifetime.† Dean, the boy he had a crush on in high school, who returns to town at the same time as Henry, with his two children from a failed marriage.†

Itís refreshing to see gay people in film interacting normally with the mainstream community, as they do in real life.† Everyone loves Henry and tries to help him.

Henry stays in Big Eden for 6 months, wrestling with his unrequited passion for Dean, who sends out mixed signals, keeping the dream alive.† Meanwhile Pike Dexter, the Native American owner of the local general store, slowly realises heís in love with Henry.† Itís never clear whether Pike is gay or not.† In a wonderfully symbolic gesture he pours his growing love for Henry into the meals he prepares for him and his grandfather, increasingly elaborate affairs.† Pike has a posse of local men who hang around every day in the front of his store, looking out for him.† Heís a silent character, deep, with emotions held far under his apparently passive surface.† They want him to be happy and are fiercely protective of him.†

One of my favourite scenes has Henry explaining to Pike his painting of the Pleiades.† Pike in return tells Henry a Native American legend about the same stars.† I wonít spoil it, but itís the most moving part of the movie, the longest speech normally taciturn Pike has, and sums up the theme beautifully.

We have a couple of memorable kisses but no sex, another aspect that plays against expectations of a gay movie.† However, you really feel that yearning, between Henry and Dean and Pike and Henry. Dean is the hardest to get a handle on:† is he really straight or just unable to consider having sex with Henry, his old chum?

The Montana scenery is gorgeous, real life settings in beautiful wood and glass houses right by a crystal clear lake, with cosy kitchens and homey atmosphere, exactly where Iíd love to live.

The tension is maintained right to the wire.† Will Henry follow his heart and make the right choice?† Believe me, youíll be on the edge of your seat.

Finally, for those whoíd say itís unrealistic, a fairy tale, that thereís no such place as Big Eden, well, itís not a big stretch if youíve read all our westerns, where tacit acceptance if not outright approval for man-to-man loving was a common feature of frontier society.† Where everyday life is more of a struggle than in the big city people donít have time to bother so much with their neighbourís sexual preferences.† And if Big Eden doesnít yet exist, then films like this help bring the ideal closer.† You HAVE to see this one.

Big Eden [2001] in Region 0 (anywhere in the world) from Amazon UK here