I rented this film courtesy of Netflix, thinking I would receive the 1972 version. I sat clueless, watching this new version, thinking: Gee, the production values were spectacular! I was convinced the soundtrack had a slightly 70s' sound to it. I was even more convinced that this was a 70s film when it occurred to me (almost every five seconds) that the one thing that was missing between Gene and Finney was an intense hug, a loaded stare, a passionate kiss.
I'm sorry, although John Knowles himself has indicated that this was not a homosexual relationship, it is painfully obvious that yes, that's exactly what it was. When people (usually adolescents) of the same sex have "intense" friendships, it means that those longings for love, togetherness, the desire to express oneself sexually, are all spilling over. These boys needed to connect, but they were never allowed to.
Also, despite a spirited performance by Toby Moore, I never felt any of the emotions were real. I never connected to either of the boys, for the very reason their relationship was not truly honest.
People want to live in a fantasy and think that because this took place in the 1940s that these boys couldn't have had these sexual feelings for each other. But I say they did -- at least in the book they did, and in this movie, Finney had them, almost painfully, for Gene. The "intensity" that John Knowles suggests existed between them was a closet homosexuality, a hero worship, an idolatry -- that would, under normal circumstances, be expressed in a sexual way. Even if these boys were repressing it, it should have been crystal clear, but this movie doesn't even really hint at it.
Lastly, there is an unbelievably bizarre moment when Finney, who has broken his leg, is playfully jumped on by all the other boys during a ball game. Unless they were just a bunch of nincompoops, they would know they could not possibly throw their bodies against him. Obviously this bone-shattering moment was lost on both the director and the producer.
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