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American films

Film review: I Am Michael – gay activist turns straight Christian minister in bland true-life biopic

James Franco and Zachary Quinto star in this true story that gives the facts about a young gay man’s abrupt U-turn, but leaves out any real motivation for his actions

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 September, 2017, 12:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 November, 2017, 2:40pm

2.5/5 stars

I Am Michael tells the true story of Michael Glatze, a gay rights activist who became a fundamentalist Christian, claimed that being gay was an abnormality that led to an eternity in hell, and married a woman.

It’s a well-made film which tries to maintain an objective stance towards its subject matter. But the only reason for it to exist is to inform the audience about the motivation behind Glatze’s radical change, and that doesn’t happen. Director Justin Kelly clearly presents the facts of the story, but the necessary psychological content is lacking.

Sexual identity lies at the root of Glatze’s depressing tale, but Kelly voices the story as an existential crisis. Glatze (James Franco), the co-founder of Young Gay America, starts off as a politicised gay rights activist in a long-term relationship with the thoughtful Bennett (Zachary Quinto). Then Glatze starts to worry about getting into heaven so he can meet his deceased parents.

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Bible readings lead to an immersion in fundamentalist Christianity, a break with Bennett, and a denial of his homosexuality. Glatze becomes a counsellor who aims to turn young gay men straight, then a preacher.

Glatze, as portrayed by Franco, is an unsympathetic protagonist whose main qualities are self-obsession and self-deception. He’s unconcerned about the emotional harm that he inflicts on his abandoned friends, who are more sensitive to his self-invented plight than he deserves. Ultimately, the film tries so hard not to judge Glatze that it ends up saying much less than it should.

I Am Michael opens on September 19

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