A Very Natural Thing

United States, 1974

Directed by Christopher Larkin

With Robert McLane (David), Curt Gareth (Mark), Bo White (Jason)

From a seminary to a Pride march: this is the narrative arc of the lead character in this early attempt (only five years after the Stonewall Riots) at shooting a film putting a LGBT personality at the center of a plot examining in a candid and respectful manner that individual’s challenges and sentiments, in a style that may give a nod to mainstream rules of cinema but still expresses the LGBT experience.

This boils down to the opposition between the desire to build a strong relationship according to a romantic, sentimental vision of love and life and the yearn for an individual independence underpinned by sexual fulfillment. David’s torment, which he himself puts down to his religious education, is that he wants to have a relationship as dependent on commitment and as ordinary in its lifestyle as any other couple – that is, the couples made up of straight people; the way he nudges and teases Mark as they attend the wedding of David’ former roommate is telling. A long conversation by their host during a Saturday night dinner they were invited to points to the difficulties of building that kind of couple among gay people but the man still concludes it is possible. Trouble is, Mark, the man David loved so much that he convinced this stubborn bachelor to share his New York apartment and more, just cannot accept the effort.

They break up and David is left on his own to get satisfaction. But he fails to get it with sex orgies in saunas – as it was already the case when Mark brought him to a gay resort where sex was readily associated with sun and sea in order to salvage their couple. He gets a new chance at love by meeting on the fringe of a Pride march a young man who used to be straight but is now proud to be gay, Jason. This time, however, David reckons to act and react with caution in his quest for the perfect love.

Fast-paced editing of pleasant vignettes focused on mundane tasks and natural feelings nicely captures how David and Mark fall in love and build their relationships. The full frontal sex scenes of “A Very Natural Thing”, even if they have a plainly titillating edge, are part of the effort to show that homosexual love is as natural and sensual as the more widespread and well-known heterosexual kind. But to emphasize that this love is truly “a very natural thing”, the film interestingly frames the story between images of a Pride march, including comments by participants claiming their rights to be respected and asserted. The love story and the personal gay life are, more clumsily than smoothly by the way, put into a wider, and more political, point of view that affirms the legitimacy of the LGBT experience inside the American society. That is, indeed, respectable and moving – just enough to make the middling work of shooting and acting worth a watch and worth remembering as the message and the topic were not that easy to discuss openly and quietly at the 1970s – and even in the 21st century in some parts of the world.

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