The Green is a harsh look at small-town homophobia, and how easily acceptance can turn to rejection. Though I found the resolution clumsy and unsatisfying, most of the film was excellently done, gripping and all-too-realistic with well-developed characters.
(Warning: this review may contain spoilers.)
When Michael, an openly gay teacher at a New England private school, is falsely accused of inappropriate relations with Jason, one of his students, his life quickly goes to hell. He loses his job, is ostracised by the community he thought had accepted him, Daniel his partner of fifteen years (whose business is also in jeopardy) starts to mistrust him a little and eventually moves out, and even their closest friends are hesitant about associating with him in public.
In this film, most of the characters are very human and flawed. Michael is actually innocent of the charges against him, and does honestly care about Jason, who’s dealing with a bad home life (and, it’s later implied, physical/sexual abuse from his stepfather); he desperately wants to stay pure and above the legal fray, only concerned with getting the truth out, refusing to settle with Jason’s family because it would be an implicit admission of guilt… but he’s been keeping a major secret: many years ago when they were just starting to date, Michael cheated on Daniel in a public washroom, with a complete stranger, and was arrested as a result. Michael just wanted to put the sordid episode behind him, but now it’s blowing up in his face in the worst possible way.
In fact, I’d say there’s only unambiguous bad guy here: Jason’s stepfather, who only pressed these charges hoping for a big settlement cheque, and is also a recovering alcoholic who fell off the wagon.
Which leads me to the climax, where The Green morphs into a totally different movie. As a major thunderstorm hits the town Jason, who’d run away from home, goes to visit Michael for unexplained reasons but Michael only yells at him. Understandable, because if Jason had said anything at all denying the charges, nothing would have come of it. Jason freaks and runs back to his house with Michael hot on his trail, grabs a kitchen knife and goes to kill his stepfather. Michael intervenes but in the struggle accidentally throws the man into the knife (still held by Jason), inflicting what looks like a mortal wound.
And the storm blows over, literally and symbolically. The molestation charges against Michael are dropped, no new charges of murder or manslaughter are laid, Jason will stay in school and keep his scholarship, Michael apparently both gets his job back and loses his writer’s block (the very first scene shows him working on a novel and being stuck). Hell, I’m surprised there wasn’t a rainbow shining over the last shot of him walking to school! True, Michael and Daniel do not immediately get back together, but the conclusion gives us hope that this will happen eventually.
Overall, I very much enjoyed The Green. It was engaging and disturbingly realistic, with some quite beautiful New England scenery, and even the jarring conclusion didn’t detract from the appeal. Though it’s not my favourite so far (that honour still goes to Nate & Margaret) I definitely recommend it.
(A version of this review first appeared on http://www.npdemers.net).
Nicolas Demers is a web developer and blogger living in Vancouver’s West End. In his spare time he enjoys science-fiction, photography, and is actively involved with the Vancouver Gay Volleyball Association.