Many films have offered powerful explanations for why homophobia is bad. By contrast, Julius Telmer and Jevgeni Jevsikov’s Greenfield provides one so illogical that it’s occasionally difficult to take the film seriously. In telling the story of James (Ethan Tomas) and Kelley (Marthe Snorresdotter Rovik), two residents of the titular fictional town in rural Australia. Greenfield ultimately suggests that homophobia’s primary victims are straight people who’d otherwise be able to live happily.
When the film opens, Kelley has just returned to Greenfield after spending several years abroad. At a welcome-home party, she meets James, an old flame who expressly came back to Greenfield to see her. The two of them hit it off immediately – and to the jealousy of Alex (Renato Fabretti), a friend of Kelley’s, they enter into a relationship.
To reinsert himself into Kelley’s life, James befriends her younger brother Michael (Liam Graham), a social outcast who’s regularly picked on by others for his wimpy appearance. The two of them establish a decent rapport – and at one point, when a man named Jason (Daniel Tenni) tries to bully Michael, James punches Jason in the face.
“At a welcome-home party, she meets James, an old flame who expressly came back to Greenfield to see her.”
Ultimately, however, James’ efforts to befriend Michael have consequences that James never could’ve foreseen. One day, when James visits Michael at work, Michael tries to kiss him on the lips. While James immediately rebuffs Michael’s advances, their kiss is photographed by Jason, who happens to be nearby. Jason sends the photo to Alex, who’s only too happy to share it with his friends, Kelley, and her father (Kym Bidstrup).
Since it’s only through this “photo incident” that you learn that Michael is a closeted gay, you find yourself wanting to learn more about him. How does he understand his own sexuality? What exactly are his feelings towards James? How does he feel when he’s bullied by others? Shortly following the photo incident, a drunken Jason brutally rapes Michael, and these questions only become more urgent.
Frustratingly, however, Telmer and Jevsikov end up taking Greenfield in a completely different direction. Instead of examining Michael, the rest of the film largely focuses on James. It shows us how everyone starts to think that James is a “faggot,” and we see how this prejudice drives a wedge between him and Kelley.
“The film ably captures the cultural divide between urban and rural areas…”
To put all of this another way: Greenfield painstakingly illustrates how homophobia ruins James’ life. At the same time, however, it displays comparatively little interest in how homophobia affects Michael. By definition, homophobia’s main victims are gay people. In spite of this, Greenfield perversely makes a gay man’s experience with homophobia seem less significant than a straight man’s.
I don’t mean to suggest that Greenfield is completely bad. The film ably captures the cultural divide between urban and rural areas, and it also does a good job of illustrating the machoness of rural culture. Yet when it comes to homophobia, the narrative’s main antagonistic force, Greenfield adopts a maddeningly misguided approach. Telmer and Jevsikov were probably well-intentioned, but if you’re like me, you’ll likely find their film an insult to the LGBT experience.
"…you’ll likely find their film an insult to the LGBT experience"