a film by Roger Spottiswoode
2002 | 88 mins | Canada
›› The Matthew Shepard Story
a compelling film about a life all too brutally cut short
The Matthew Shepard Story by Roger Spottiswoode The bloody beating of Matthew Shepard was a murder that not only shocked the good folk of Laramie, Wyoming, but literally the whole of America. Vividly brought to the stage and thereafter to the screen through Moisés Kaufman's highly moving work The Laramie Project, this television depiction of the horrific events of the night of the 7th October 1998 takes a variant approach to its noted counterpart, hereby charting Matthew's relationship with his parents and friends and inparticular his time spent in Morocco, life in Denver, to that of his death at a period when he had moved back to Laramie to further his education and career.

Made within the confines of a telemovie budget and laced with flashbacks to depict Matthew's life story, the central focus however is on his parents struggle over whether or not they should request the death penalty for those responsible for the murder of their son. To that end, Sam Waterston and Stockard Channing as Dennis and Judy Shepard achingly deliver the heartbreaking emotions that no parents should have to feel. Yet it is Kristen Thomson as worldly wise friend Romaine Patterson and Yani Gellman as boyfriend Pablo who fly the rainbow flag, being testament to Matthew's personality and very sexuality, one that would ultimately cost him his life.

True, only those who knew the real Matthew Shepard will be able to gauge how close Shane Meier's portrayal is to the man himself. What is apparent is the emotional job Meier does in depicting a delicate young man who would came to experience the contrasting extremes of homosexual acceptance and outright prejudice.

Complete with Elton John's poignant "American Triangle" from his "Songs From The West Coast" album, what remains for all to see is the compassion of Matthew's parents who went beyond their hatred for those who had not thought twice about callously extinguishing the life of their son, only to beg for their own lives to be saved. For that is the bottom line here, namely an alarming wake up call to the fact that for all of our social and political advances, the ashes of homophobia are still burning, with many only too happy to fan the flames of sexual intolerance.

A compelling film about a life all too brutally cut short.
screened as part of Channel 5's UK film matinee presentations 2009
starring: Sam Waterston, Stockard Channing, Shane Meier, Kristen Thomson, Yani Gellman,
Damien Atkins, Drew Nelson, Joseph Ziegler, Philip Edolls, Paul Robbins
Copyright 2009 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #200
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