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Peter J. Byrnes,
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Although I don't regard Last Year as a complete waste, it certainly doesn't present a very realistic view of life at a small Bible college. I spent three years at a small Baptist university in a small town and my spouse spent four years at a moderately sized Presbyterian university, so we spent much of the movie cringing at the conflicts between our observations of reality and the portrayals in the movie.
From the description, we expected to see young gay men struggling to reconcile their sexual identity with their religious convictions. Indeed, from comments by the actors and director/writer/producer in the additional material on the DVD, that was the intent. However, two of the gay characters came to the college by mandate of their parents and had little or no religious conviction and the third had obviously discarded much, if not all, of his religious belief as he had embraced his gay identity. The frequent mention of St. Jude and the few seconds he is portrayed on screen prior to the end credits doesn't qualify as reconciliation of gay identity and religious (Christian) dogma. The reference to St. Jude is problematic as well, since emphasis on saints is a Catholic reference and all the other religious references in the film imply the college setting is a Protestant/Fundamentalist, possibly Baptist or Pentecostal.
The production quality of the movie is dismayingly amateurish, as is the performance of most of the actors. Although some of the scenes seem to have been actually filmed in the facilities of a small school, which added the benefits of existing ambient sound, the sound effects and score were very lacking. And, as much as I have often joined in condemning movie and television producers who fail to utilize gay actors to play gay parts, it would have certainly improved the quality of Last Year to have cast straight actors in at least some of the straight roles. It was almost impossible to suspend belief and see Robby as anything other than gay. In the most confrontational scene between the gay bashing jocks and Paul, it almost seems like Paul and the lead jock want to kiss as they stand nose to nose. And, in fact, the outtakes include that scene ending with Paul leaning the additional inch in and planting a kiss on the jock's lips. Another criticism I have of the casting is that I saw no chemistry between the actors portraying Paul and Alex, although these are the two characters that develop a physical and emotional relationship as the film progresses. Mike Dolan, who portrays Alex, brings the most professional and close to believable performance to the movie, but it simply isn't enough.
As for cautions, I think anyone with unresolved issues about suicide might want to skip this movie. Also the movie really doesn't provide any serious help to resolving gay identity and religious conviction; so if you are struggling with this issue, don't expect too much help there either. If you want to see a movie for light entertainment, I wouldn't discourage you from Last Year. But it is better as a rental rather than a purchase, because I am not sure many would want to devote the time to watching it a second time.
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