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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Arizona Sky. Distributed by Guardian Pictures.
Review by Duane Simolke for ThisWeekInTexas.Com.

Jeff London, the writer/director of And Then Came Summer and Regarding Billy, returns with another warm hug of a movie. Like all of London’s films, Arizona Sky relies on dialogue and character development to tell its story. The lack of a large budget never deters London, who keeps sharing quiet but heartfelt tales about gay lives. This new film often feels like a videotaped play, and could easily translate to the stage.

The story starts with an awkward conversation, as teenaged Kyle (Kyle Buckland) and Jake (Blaise Embry) get ready to leave for a camp-out. After they arrive at the camping spot, we soon learn that their innuendoes and uncomfortable glances reflect just what they suggest: that these two best friends are more than just friends. Neither can accept what that means; instead of exploring their feelings, they discuss how their lives will change after one of them makes an impending relocation.

A decade and a half later, Jake (now played by Eric Dean) is unhappy in his life as a Hollywood filmmaker. His new best friend encourages him to figure out what’s missing in his life. Jake knows it involves his home town, and the friend he left behind. They had gone all those years without contact.

The adult Kyle (Jayme McCabe) also has a new best friend. In both cases, “best friend” no longer serves as a shield or euphemism for something more, but those fulfilling friendships provide a counterpoint for the untapped potential of Jake and Kyle’s possible love.

Kyle and Jake slowly explore how they really feel about each other and themselves, providing the conflicts and romance for the remainder of the story. London interjects other characters from Kyle’s life as well. They reveal a man who obviously qualifies as marriage material.

Still, Kyle hurts those loved ones in a way, by not giving them credit for their ability to unconditionally love and understand him. I don’t want to make Arizona Sky sound like an issue-driven movie, though. It mostly offers viewers an old-fashioned romance that simply happens to involve two men.

Patricia Place, Brent King, Bernadette Murray, and Emerson Smith also star in Arizona Sky. Cinematographer Matthew Skala captures the beautiful but sometimes harsh-looking setting of Lake Havasu, Arizona. Mark Krench, the composer for London’s film Regarding Billy, provides a soundtrack with a touch of romance and Western charm.