The Greatest Image

The Greatest

By Alan Ng | June 19, 2024

It’s the 60s, and your typical all-American businessman struggles to hide a deep secret in Ryan Sarno’s feature film, The Greatest. For all intents and purposes, Jay McKlien (Isaac Nevrla) is on the fast track to fulfilling the American Dream. He’s the son of the owner of a successful business. His father rewards his hard work and business acumen. He marries his beautiful wife, Beverly (Isabela Jacobsen), who gives him a healthy baby boy. But Jay is hiding a deep, dark secret.

While on vacation with his family, Jay is served by the handsome Ricky (Sergio Acevedo). What starts as a friendship quickly turns into something more profound. When the family returns home, Jay and Ricky begin seeing more of each other, meeting secretly at the local gay bar establishments. As good as Jay is about hiding the relationship between Beverly and the world, the cracks begin to form to the point that even his father is giving him tips.

During one meeting with Ricky, the police raid the bar and charge Jay with various bullshit crimes. When Beverly bails him out, she threatens to divorce Jay unless he seeks “treatment.” No one should have to go through this kind of treatment. This is not a horror film; it’s real.

I’ll say this. I’ve seen my fair share of LGBT-themed films, and my common complaint is that they become one coming-out story after the other. My encouragement to filmmakers is if you’re going to tell a familiar story, find a way to make it unique and stand out from a very crowded field.

“…marries his beautiful wife, Beverly, who gives him a healthy baby boy. But Jay is hiding a deep, dark secret.”

Watching The Greatest, I felt that way during the first act…I’ve seen this before. Once you get into the second act, when Jay is caught and sent to treatment, this is where the story really took off for me. The stuff (more the torture) that Jay goes through is horrible. It was something new that I had never heard of before. In the ’60s, the world was still in a state where being gay was something that had to be “cured.”

I also liked the direction that Ryan Sarno’s story took at this point. There were people around who had enough wherewithal to realize these treatments and cures were wrong. This then leads to the pressures of “keeping up appearances” and hiding your true self for the rest of your life. These themes are handled as authentically as one can in a 60s period drama.

Another praise for the greatest goes to writer/director/production designer/set designer Ryan Sarno is that this is a good-looking indie film set in the 60s. A great deal of effort is taken to keep the illusions of traveling back sixty years ago throughout the entire film in both exterior and interior shots. Though it does feel like the film is shot like a 60s television drama, the illusion is maintained throughout.

The Greatest is a wonderful piece of melodrama perfect for celebrating Pride Month. It will remind you that there was a time when being gay was a disease that needed to be cured and that, somehow, we’re still having problems making these practices illegal today.

For screening information for The Greatest, visit the Underworld Productions website.

The Greatest (2024)

Directed and Written: Ryan Sarno

Starring: Isaac Nevrla, Sergio Acevedo, Isabela Jacobsen, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

The Greatest Image

"…a wonderful piece of melodrama perfect for celebrating Pride Month."

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