When his partner Cody dies in a car accident, Joey learns that their son, Chip, has been willed to Cody's sister. In his now solitary home life, Joey searches for a solution. The law is not on his side, but friends are.
In the town of Martin, Tennessee, Chip Hines, a precocious six year old, has only known life with his two dads, Cody and Joey. And a good life it is. When Cody dies suddenly in a car accident, Joey and Chip struggle to find their footing again. Just as they begin to, Cody's will reveals that he named his sister as Chip's guardian. The years of Joey's acceptance into the family unravel as Chip is taken away from him. In his now solitary home life, Joey searches for a solution. The law is not on his side, but friends are. Armed with their comfort and inspired by memories of Cody, Joey finds a path to peace with the family and becomes closer to his son. Written by
Joey's lack of medical or legal recourse after his romantic partner Cody's death is based in fact. Many real-life gay couples in the US have found themselves in similarly difficult circumstances in hospitals after one of them had a serious injury or developed a grave illness. One instance that garnered a great deal of media coverage, outrage, and legal action was the case of domestic partners Lisa Pond and Janice Langbehn. In 2007, Langbehn and Pond, who had been together almost two decades, traveled with three of their four children from their home in Washington State to Florida, where Pond had an aneurysm. Although the couple had drawn up legal documents to try to make official their relationship in lieu of legally recognized marriage (including health care proxies and a durable power of attorney), the hospital denied Langbehn any right to make health care decisions for Pond or even to see her (a hospital social worker told Langbehn, "I need you to know this is an anti-gay city and a anti-gay state, and you are not going to get to see her or know her condition.") Langbehn and their children were not allowed to see Pond before she died. Langbehn's subsequent suit against the hospital was unsuccessful, but the case did lead to an April 2010 directive from President Obama to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to prohibit visitation discrimination in all hospitals receiving Medicaid or Medicare funding. President Obama awarded Langbehn a 2011 Presidential Citizens Medal for "transform[ing] her own profound loss into a resounding call for compassion and equality." See more »
Touching, surprising, important - but way too long
This is a distinctive film with a distinctive lead actor/director/writer, one that will probably be cited in future years as his first imperfect effort. It addresses an important issue - the uncertain rights of gay survivors - head-on from an unexpected, very individual point of view. Joey Williams, the southern-accented, low-key Asian protagonist, is a tremendously loving person - loving not only to his partner and their son (strikingly and adorably played by Sebastian Brodziak), but to others around him. As we learn his back-story as a foster child, this understated readiness to love becomes all the more moving. When he finds himself alone and having to fight for his son, his dilemma is all the more moving because he is clearly a person who, without being weak, sidesteps confrontation. His manner throughout is endearing and very specific, even as he encounters, in the most off- handed way, chilling and heartless homophobia at one of the most difficult moments of his life. The "issue" is certainly front and center here, but we care about him first and foremost as a person - luckily, since we spend far more time with him than one usually would in a film. There are also unexpected gestures of kindness and concern all through the film, one on the part of a Wise Man who appears from the most unexpected corner and reminds us that, even as Joey struggles for the right to be a father, he remains a tender soul in need of a father figure himself; at different moments, a glass of whiskey and a glass of water, each quietly offered, make it clear that he has found one. The film's unhurried pace often serves it well - one of the most moving sequences involves methodically taking out a beer and opening it
but there are also moments that are plain slow and others which keep
pushing at a point that has already been made or linger overmuch on history. The film overall should have been at least a third shorter. By being as long as it is, the film actually dilutes the very real intensity of its central contemplation of family and its meaning. But these are flaws in an overall excellent film, one which is rarely predictable and often quietly surprising, above all very warm and human all the way through. Its low-key quirkiness, by the way, includes one of the more off-the-wall bits of product placement to be seen in an indie film, one that will delight the handful of fans who know and care who wrote "Wild Thing". As gracefully integrated as this is, one gets the sense that the director/writer knew the songwriter and wanted, as much as anything else, to help him out; a gesture which sums up the fundamentally loving nature of this entire project.
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