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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

Jonathan ****

Starring: Jannis Niewöhner, André Hennicke, Julia Keschitz, Thomas Sarbacher Director: Piotr J. Lewandowski It will take many generations before all LGBT people feel able to come out of the closet without prejudice. Even in countries that are seemingly open to LGBT people, many still feel they cannot come out, especially older people who have previously lived in times of terrible persecution. Jonathan explores the ramifications of being gay on a man who has never been able to face his sexuality, with his life of self-denial only catching up to him on his deathbed. Jonathan (Niewöhner) works on his father's farm in rural Germany. With his father (Hennicke) seriously ill, he is forced to take over running the business while a young nurse (Keschitz) comes to look after him. The two quickly begin a steamy romance, but Jonathan's attention is brought swiftly into focus again upon the arrival of a mysterious stranger (Sarbacher) from his father's past. Refusing to tell his son who he is, but also refusing to let him leave, a chasm is cut between father and son, whose lover tries to encourage them both to embrace in death what he could not accept in life. This a slow-paced film, reflecting the pace of life in this tiny corner of the countryside. Both Jonathan and his father are depicted as products of this, whose lives are slipping past without incident, excitement or upset, even if the younger does look a little too well-groomed for his manual job. But this quietness is plastered over the drama of the past, from before the father resigned himself to a life in which he cannot and must not truly be himself. Because, as we learn, his attempts to be himself previously have only led to tragedy and heartache. The three leads give capable performances, even if Niewöhner's earnest rustic masculinity feels a little forced. His chemistry with Keschitz is palpable however, with their steamy and effortless romance a strong contrast with the repression the father has felt his whole life. Hennicke gives a subtle performance as the father, who barely lets the pain of the past surface, or even appear in the cracks of his well-honed facade, instead showing just an expressionless stoicism, even though it is firmly to his detriment. Jonathan is part of a new wave of films that are exploring homosexuality in rural life. Where homophobia has been explored extensively in city communities around the world, the focus has now shifted into places where the prejudice is more nuanced and internalised, where the pressure comes from people's perceived opinions of a society that geographically they are barely part of. Films like Jonathan show how the trickle-down effect of social change has not yet reached the furthest corners of even the most liberal countries. Jonathan shows that even the most idyllic places are only as beautiful as the people who populate it.

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