Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal play Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, two cowboys who meet working for a sheep rancher in 1963 and fall in love. What begins as easy companionship and unspoken attraction leads to a consummation that is infused with as much mutual accusation, anger and violence as it is lust. It is as honest a sex scene as you'll ever see, and I was amazed that there was not one snicker in the movie house throughout.
Aside from the marvelous acting and the gorgeous scenery (and SHEEP! lots of SHEEP!), the story is just a simple, quietly harrowing gem.
Above all, it struck me that this is a story about everyone's life that you know, not just about these two characters. To me, Jack and Ennis's secret suffering, the pain they inflicted on themselves and their families, and the poverty of spirit they endured because of their predicament, all spoke of the ordinary ways men and women make sacrifices with terrible consequences to their entire lives. It spoke of the ways we don't see those consequences unfolding until its too late, and too many years have passed.
So as tragic as this film was, its briliance, for me, was its ability to transcend the "tormented gay love story" genre and to speak to the human condition. I credit director Ang Lee for telling the story in such a way that I was able not only to grieve for Ennis and Jack, but for all the characters, and by extension, all of us.
I came away from "Brokeback Mountain" with fresh appreciation for my denomination's work for gay rights and marriage equality. It is a totally unpolitical movie that nevertheless dramatically illustrates the truth that when people are not permitted to love freely, the subsequent suffering extends into families and communities.
Look for an Oscar nom for Heath Ledger, who gives an absolutely amazing performance. I would count Ennis Del Mar among the most real, memorable and loveable characters I have ever met on film.