I Am Michael (2015) – Film Review
Director: Justin Kelly
Cast: James Franco, Zachary Quinto, Daryl Hannah
by Sarah Morgan
It’s one of the most extraordinary stories you’ve probably never heard, a tale that beggars belief and one that doesn’t seem plausible – and yet the plot of I Am Michael is based on a true story.
The film begins in San Francisco in the 1990s, when Michael Glatze is in his early twenties and in a happy, loving relationship with his partner, Benoit. Glatze has seemingly dedicated his life to gay activism, helping young people come to terms with their sexuality via magazine articles, talks and blogs. Even a move to Halifax, Nova Scotia, doesn’t dampen his desire to spread the word.
However, that word changes in dramatic fashion. Following a health scare (Glatze’s father had dropped dead when his son was 13 from a condition that may have been hereditary), Glatze turns to God for enlightenment and guidance, turning his back on Benoit and their old life, and even claiming to have given up being homosexual.
Instead, he’s seen training to be a pastor and settling down with a woman.
Unbelievable, right? And that’s the extraordinary part of I Am Michael; all of this purports to be true. What the real Glatze thinks of the film is a mystery, but he gave it the go-ahead after selling the rights to his story. It doesn’t, however, paint him in a great light.
“Intriguing but unconvincing”
When the tale begins, he’s a happy-go-lucky sort of chap, kind and non-judgemental, but almost as soon as he gets the Bible in his hands, he turns into quite the opposite, complete with pensive brow.
James Franco is never less than engaging, no matter the project, and he does a fine job here as Glatze, a character who is far from sympathetic by the time the end credits roll (unless you happen to be homophobic). He’s ably supported by Zachary Quinto as Benoit and Emma Roberts as Rebekah, the naïve girl who loves him.
Taken as pure drama, it’s intriguing but unconvincing – it goes against everything we know about human nature to suggest that homosexuals can simply walk away from being attracted to members of their own sex. However, as a biopic, it’s compelling, although you do wonder who the target audience is. You can’t imagine either gay folk or Christians being thrilled with the portrayal of either group.
And it’s also difficult to know who to root for. Should we back the conflicted Michael, despite his puritanical views, or Benoit, left supposedly heartbroken despite the presence of a new love in his life? Or even Rebekah?
But full marks to director Justin Kelly for the final scene – it’s the most thought-provoking and subtle moment in the entire film, and one that won’t be spoilt for future viewers here.
‘I Am Michael’ is out now and available from Amazon