Leave it to the French to make an earnest movie dramatizing the struggle for LGBTQ equality over the past four decades and to make the main character a bit of a jerk. Victor, who’s 17 at the start of this three-part film and 49 at the end, has a temper, holds a grudge and often can’t see past his own needs. In short, the filmmakers seem to be saying even jackasses deserve equal rights.
Victor isn’t a terrible person, he’s just self-centered and needs to be coaxed into doing the right thing — so maybe he’s a stand-in for practically everyone in the world, particularly those who needed persuading over the years to back LGBTQ rights. We meet Victor when he’s a 17-year-old high school senior (played by Benjamin Voisin), having a covert affair with a schoolmate of Algerian descent while dating a sweet blond girl in public. Both he and his secret boyfriend work for Victor’s father, Charles (the excellent, intense Frédéric Pierrot), a foreman on a construction site — thus setting up a tumultuous coming-out story.
This first of three 50-minute episodes is set in 1981, and the next two installments take place in 1999 and finally 2013, when same-sex marriage is on the verge of legalization. Each episode focuses on one aspect of Victor’s life, and most of the characters from 1981 age and evolve with him, including Serge (Stanislas Nordey), the older man who teenage Victor meets in the cruising area of a park.
Unfortunately, Proud takes itself so seriously that it neglects to include much joy. It’s not a downer — victories are won, wounds heal, relationships deepen — but depictions of pleasure and romance are few. Even the frank sex scenes most often dramatize what’s missing rather than what’s being discovered. Still, Proud could make for a good Pride Month viewing party or three-course reminder on what young people have to go through even today — both LGBTQ youths and the children raised by LGBTQ parents.
Available starting June 19 via fineartstheatre.com