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By Doug Brunell | December 10, 2007

Once again we get a very effective film about the destructive capabilities of the nuclear family. And yet again we are shown that the victims of it (the children) are the only ones who will be able to break the pattern by not following the example set by their parents. “Eighteen” gets its foundation from the Religious Right’s biggest threat to the nuclear family: homosexuality.

The story presented here seems quite simple on the surface. Pip (Paul Anthony) is estranged from his family and lives on the streets begging for money. Initially we aren’t aware of why he’s been kicked out of the home, but we assume it’s because he’s not the most pleasant or stable of people to be around. On his eighteenth birthday his father presents him with an audio tape recorded by his grandfather (voiced by Ian McKellen) that details the man’s experiences in the war. These experiences will soon parallel some of what is happening in Pip’s life. Along the way, Pip is befriended by a street hustler (Clarence Sponagle), has several run-ins with Father Chris (Alan C*****g), and gets a girlfriend (Carly Pope). Then we learn the real story about why this young man’s life has been turned inside out, and it is not very pleasant.

It’s easy to see that some conservative viewers may have a problem with this film, feeling as if there is a “homosexual agenda” here that paints homosexuality as “good” and heterosexuality as “dysfunctional.” That’s not the case. Both are shown in positive and negative lights; it just so happens that homosexuality plays a huge part in the plot development, so there is going to be more focus on it. Conversely, the film’s conclusion also shows that a nuclear, heterosexual family can actually work if people are willing to accept the responsibility of acting like adults. Unfortunately, with homosexuality being in the forefront of all this, some viewers are going to either turn the film off part way through or never watch it in the first place, and those are perhaps the very people who need to hear the movie’s message the most.

“Eighteen” is not a perfect film. In fact, it could have worked just as well, if not better, without any of the flashbacks to the war. It is also telling that it won Best Drama at the Salt Lake Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, as it is probably one of the best films to come out in a long time that has homosexuality as one of its main themes. It’s not a happy film, and it doesn’t let its characters off the hook, either (at least not Pip), but it is refreshing to see a movie that doesn’t shy away from life’s many complexities. There aren’t too many films you can say that about, but this is definitely one of them.

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