Director: Chip Hale.
Principal cast: Dan Payne, Charlie David, Thea Gill, Derek Baynham.
Why would anyone choose to live a lie? In great many societies across the globe gay people are effectively coerced into heteronormativity. In reality, succumbing to it is their only chance of survival with their secret emotions and desires usually forever remaining just that – a well-kept secret. But why does it happen in free, liberal societies where, to a great extent, you are supposed to be able to make your own choices? Hasn’t the iron grip of the heteronormative peer pressure become a lot weaker in the so-called enlightened West? Or do gay people here have completely other reasons to commit to a poster image of heterosexual suburban bliss? Whatever the answers to those questions, one thing seems to be a given – sooner or later the facade will collapse and many people will get hurt. Every choice that you make has certain consequences and you don’t always get a second chance. The title of the Canadian director Chip Hale’s debut feature „Mulligans” means exactly that - second chances. It’s a term used in golf which shouldn’t be surprising since the screenplay’s author Charlie David, who also plays one of the main characters, is said to be a keen golfer.
Chase (Charlie David) and Tyler (Derek Baynham) are best friends in college. When the summer break comes, Tyler takes Chase to his parents' summer retreat on the picturesque Vancouver Island. His dad, Nathan (Dan Payne) is a passionate golfer who spends most of his time on a golf course nearby while his domesticated wife, Stacey (Thea Gill) is mostly concerned with the appropriate „summer fun” for their youngest child nicknamed Birdie (and yes, it’s a golf term too). To the outside world Tyler’s family would certainly have looked like a textbook example of a successful traditional family – Nathan’s career is apparently quite rewarding since he can afford to drive around in a Porsche (not to mention this summer residence) and his wife doesn’t have to work, instead being able to concentrate on being a good wife to a caring husband and a good mother to healthy and intelligent children. The beautiful natural settings around them only emphasise the apparent harmony of their happy relationship. But if Chase, whose own father died when he was five and whose mother apparently isn’t really part of his life anymore, had an initial feeling that this was a family he would have loved to have himself, it couldn’t have lasted for too long for there was definitely „something rotten in the Kingdom of Denmark”.
When Tyler arrives on the island, he’s instantly thrown back into his seemingly traditional social circles for the summer with friends throwing wild parties and even what appears to be a steady „summer” girlfriend. Not aware of Chase’s homosexuality, he duly tries to set him up with girls, both at parties and at their house. Chase, who grows weary of pretending, finally decides to come out to Taylor which puts the latter into a certain state of quiet turmoil. Trying to come to terms with such turn of events, he even confesses to his father that „although it doesn’t change anything, it changes everything” and suddenly, small things, like close body contact with Chase while playing basketball, become troublesome and confusing. But as they are both trying to redefine their friendship, another person gets emotionally involved – Nathan, who turns out to be a classical closet case. Struggling with his own sexuality and his budding feelings for Chase, also he is cast into a state of mental turmoil triggered by this sudden confrontation between the life he has lived so far and what could have been.
When most of the family leaves for a weekend at Stacey’s mother’s place, Nathan and Chase stay behind. And it isn’t difficult to figure out that Nathan’s feelings give way to irrational behaviour and the two end up in bed. He is head over heels in love with Chase and can’t keep his hands away from the guy who grows more and more uncomfortable with the situation. Needless to say, they are soon found out by both Stacey and Tyler and the hell breaks loose. While Chase, in all essence, can just walk away, it is, of course, a completely different story for Nathan who has to make some serious choices in his life which will affect not only him but also those around him. Will he get a mulligan in his life? Or does he even really want one?
Nathan is pathalogically scared of making serious choices, especially if it involves something radical. Even when his wife forces him to confess that he is gay, his sheepish reply is still „I think so”. And when they contemplate their future, all he can say is that they shouldn’t rush things and ought to wait with any radical decisions. I guess Nathan’s pathologically indecisive nature is also what got him into this marriage in the first place and it’s definitely what gets some closeted gay people to procrastinate with their lives – „let’s just see how things develop from here”. Of course, not everybody was born strong-headed but if you continue living a lie for too long, you may never recover from it and eventually, it might just be too late to change anything. Desire to fit in and be like „everybody else” is a powerful one but if you aren’t like these fairly elusive „everybody else” sort of people, no amount of "wait-and-see" will ever change that.
The plot of „Mulligans” touches upon a highly relevant topic which hasn’t been discussed all too much in queer-themed cinematography and Charlie David deserves credit for his debut screenplay. However, the script suffers from several flaws. First of all, I find it somehow hard to believe that Chase and Tyler could have been best friends for apparently some time with Tyler being totally clueless about Chase’s sexuality. I’m sure there would have been plenty of opportunities to „test” Chase’s sexuality at college parties which undoubtedly would have been just as unrestrained with moral issues. Tyler’s reaction to Chase’s coming out was fairly believable and very plausible but I still couldn’t help noticing how mostly politically correct he and the rest of his family sounded, also after the revelation. It was also rather remarkable how quickly the storm actually died out and everybody was set on forgiving each other and „go steelers” (a reference you will understand if you watch the film). In the acting department it was often difficult to tell if the characters' overall stiffness should be attributed to the characters themselves or the actors. Well, to be honest, Charlie David, who is mostly known for his roles in Here TV!’s pseudo horror series „Dante’s Cove” which can in fact be better described as gay erotica in Carribean settings as well as a hustler in Casper Andreas’ „A Four Letter Word” (see my earlier review), is more of an onscreen hunk than a Shakespearean actor and I’m sure that Dan Payne’s physical appearance wasn’t completely coincidental either. Nevertheless, the film as a whole is thought-provoking and well-executed which certainly makes it worth your while.
Here you can watch the film's trailer
And here is a song from the film - Turn Around by Ben Sigston
turn around master -