May 9, 2019

"Boys in the Trees": My Favorite Movie of the Year

Boys in the Trees (2016) turned out to be my favorite movie of the year, but I would never have known from the trailer.  It's another one of those misleading trailers that makes a drama look like a comedy or a tearjerker look like a fantasy.

 In this case, it looks like supernatural horror will be released on Halloween and terrorize two boys on their walk home.  The movie is not about that at all.  It's about gay kids.

Halloween in Australia is in the spring, near the end of the school year, and Golden Boy Corey (Tobey Wallace) is going to be graduating.  He has been offered a scholarship to study photography at the University of New York, but he plans to stay home to be close to his friends, especially Janko (Justin Holborow).

On Halloween night, Corey and his pack go out, like they always do, to wear scary masks and brutalize the weaker kids.  During a break in the wilding, Corey walks through an abandoned skate park, and finds Jonah (Gulliver McGrath), a former friend who he abandoned for his clique of jerks.  Jonah is injured, bleeding, staring.

Does he need first aid?  Does he need an ambulance?  No, Jonah just wants one thing: "Walk me home," he demands, apparently a practice that they engaged in many times in the old days.  Corey agrees, for old time's sake, because he's worried about Jonah's injury, because he feels guilty.  Because he has no choice.

On the way home, Jonah forces Corey to act out ghost stories:
1. In a tunnel: A girl was murdered there, and doesn't realize that she's dead.

2. In an abandoned house: A boy abandoned his dreams, and years later they came back to haunt him.

3. In their school: Jonah himself discovered that most of the boys in class had turned into wolves.  "And for those who didn't change, those left behind,those that didn't develop the taste for blood, there was only one thing you could"

Suddenly the years melt away, and Corey and Jonah are friends again. They visit the Wishing Tree, where all of their childhood dreams are hanging from branches, and wonder why they ever gave up so much.

For some reason, Corey insists on taking a break from their walk home to have sex with his girlfriend.  When he returns, Jonah is missing.  Corey goes to his house, but there's no one there but an old man who won't speak.  Finally he finds him at a strange Dia de los Muertos festival, and chases him into the woods. 

Then Jonah tells one last ghost story, about a man you meet twice in your life.  The first time, you don't remember.  The second, you never forget.

Eventually they will have to finish the walk home.  Corey resists, knowing what he will find there (we viewers know, too, of course.  It's been obvious since Story #1).  Maybe he could change the ending? No, it's too late.  They share a hug before Jonah shows him where he lives.

Jonah is gay -- we know because the bullies refer to him as a "fag" (the director cut scenes that show him actually dating boys).  Due to the sex-with-girlfriend interlude, we're expected to think of Corey as straight, their friendship as platonic.  But with the hugs and almost-kisses of Jonah and then Janko, I'm sure that Corey is gay, the possibility of same-sex desire abandoned on that Wishing Tree as the "adult" world of heteronormative responsibility encroached.

Besides, there's a coda with Corey living his dream in New York, having a video chat with girlfriend-turned-gal pal, talking about a freelance photography gig, then putting on a hot gladiator costume to head down to Halloween in the Village, the second gayest festival of the year.  His apartment features a gigantic photo of Jonah.

The movie is beautifully produced, with stunning imagery and stunningly evocative dialogue.  Of course, many of Jonah's lines would never be spoken by a real person, but then, Jonah isn't actually a person, is he?

"They won't let us go forward."
"Then let's go back, where the dreams are true."


  1. A truly beautiful movie I never knew existed.Thanks.
    I have suggested this before but look up "Birdie" I think you'll like it.

  2. Doh! It's spelled "Birdy".
    Also if by accident commented using my e-mail address please do not publish it.Thanks.

    1. I don't seeany email addresses in either of these comments.

  3. I really like this movie as well. Check out the short by the same director--"The Last Time I Saw Richard." It's excellent and was originally conceived as one of the short stories in the movie. Plus, the older friend in Trees plays the younger character's role in the short--he had aged too much between the two movies and couldn't continue that role.


No offensive, insulting, racist, or homophobic comments are permitted.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...