By Maya Sapieka
Rating (four popcorns out of five)
Directed by Gus Van Sant, whose other works include Good Will Hunting and Elephant, Oscar-nominated Milk tells the riveting story of hailed American gay activist, Harvey Milk. The film is honest, brutal and speaks to all audiences whether gay or straight.
The film unfolds within the context of the 1970 homophobic violence in America and provides an intriguing account of Milk’s political campaign into public office, as the first gay political official in the United States. The story opens on Milk’s 40th birthday in 1970, and ends with his assassination eight years later. It is set predominantly in San Francisco, focusing mainly on the gay quarter along Castro Street. Milk opens a camera shop which becomes the local hang-out for gay men. He becomes the voice of the community and promises to bring change to their lives and social standing.
Van Sant uses various media in the telling of this riveting story, including Milk’s personal recordings and documentary footage from The times of Harvey Milk, which combine to provide depth and a sense of realism. Sean Penn gives a heart-warming performance as Milk, for which he won an Academy Award this year. The film also won a well-deserved award for Best Screenplay.
James Franco plays Milk’s lover and campaign manager, Scott Smith. Names such as Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin and Diego Luna also appear in this story about humanity and dedication to the cause. Milk is a heavy political film which will, at times, leave you shocked and in awe, whilst, at others, with a few tears in your eyes. But, even for all its political undertones and commentary, it is still a worthwhile watch which will satisfy any cinematographic taste.