Title: Defying Gravity
Writer/Director: John Keitel
Starring: Daniel Chilson, Niklaus Lange, Don Handfield
Distributers: Wolfe Video
Amazon Buy/Watch Link
Country of Origin/Language: USA/English
Length: 93 minutes
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Lasha
Summary: Moving film about what it means to be true to yourself.
Two fraternity brothers have a secret, one that almost gets one killed.
Thirteen years ago, Defying Gravity was one of the first gay independent films I ever saw, so it has a special place in my heart. Made on a shoe-string budget, but told with heart and compassion, it tells the story of John “Griff” Griffith and how a traumatic event forever changes him. While some friends of mine call this the “frat boys in love” film; I think it has more depth than that. In the beginning of the movie we learn that Griff and his frat brother Pete are having a relationship. Griff thinks its casual, not wanting to acknowledge he’s gay, it’s just something they do. On the other hand, Pete is having none of that. He wants more from Griff and in one pivotal scene demands Griff stop treating him like a one night stand and ask him out on an actual date. Griff does, but blows it when they wind up having their date in a gay coffee shop, which freaks Griff out and Pete leaves. On the way back to his car, Pete is gay bashed and winds up in a coma in the hospital.
Now here is where the drama starts. Not even this tragedy can snap Griff out of it. He is still in denial about everything in his life: his sexuality, his love for Pete; basically his life is in utter turmoil during this time. He evens lies to the police about meeting Pete that night. But before you start thinking Griff is a d-bag who doesn’t deserve your sympathy, this is exactly when he starts to change. In his come-to-Jesus moment, Griff realizes that he is indeed in love with Pete, stops hiding who he is and does the right thing. It is his growth that propels the movie along to its conclusion.
While there isn’t a lot of sexual content in the movie, this is more of a coming-of-age and coming out film, the core of the movie for me is the relationship between Griff and Pete. Mostly told in flashbacks and Griff’s memories, they drive the film. I liked the fact that Pete wasn’t going to be Griff’s dirty little secret. He believed he deserved more and demanded Griff treat him well or get lost. This strong character trait made me love the Pete characterization. While it does take you a little while to warm up to Griff, by the end you’ll be rooting for him to get his head out of his ass and grovel and plead to Pete for forgiveness.
The film does have its detractors. Did I mention shoe-string budget and it was made in 13 days? And some of the cast are very green actors, but I think Defying Gravity is one of those films that grows on you. It is a film I have watched over and over throughout the years and still enjoy. So, if you are willing to invest $2.99, you can try it out on Amazon or at Wolfe Video for $6.95 (buy DVD).
P.S. Watch the credits, there is a cute little scene between Griff and Pete that is in there. And if anyone can figure out the dialogue please let me know. I’ve rewatched it multiple times and cannot figure out what Griff says to Pete in the very end. (BTW, neither can anyone on IMDB, so this is just not me.)
A sweet little film about a college student coming to terms with his sexuality that brings heart and soul to the movie. Recommended for lovers of independent filmmaking.