I believe in love. I believe in marriage.
I believe that love and friendship and commitment and passion and loyalty should be at the foundation of marriage and, quite honestly, there's not much else I believe about marriage other than the fact that all too often we fail to live up to these basic standards.
Shane Bitney Crone and Tom Bridegroom were in love and, I'd dare say, it was the kind of love that most of us dream of finding at some point in our lives. The two young men from middle America, Shane from Montana and Tom from Indiana, were brought together by friends while living on the West Coast where both had moved in an effort to live a life more free of the homophobia and judgment they'd so often experienced in their early years.
For awhile, their love was truly idyllic. Both Shane and Tom decided that if they were going to be in a committed relationship that it needed to include coming out to their respective families.
Shane experienced a warm, accepting embrace.
Tom? Not so much.
The relationship continued. The two men even set a personal goal of traveling to see all the wonders of the world together.
They made it to four. Then, tragedy struck.
Tom was killed in a tragic fall off a four-story roof while photographing a friend.
In the immediate days that followed, Shane's rejection by Tom's family was swift and complete to the point of refusing Shane's attendance at the funeral. Shane, who had always kept a video diary, was left to grieve largely on his own and began recording his grief and on May 7th, 2012 marked the year anniversary of this video effort by creating a video called "It Could Happen to You," a video that when posted on Youtube went viral and received 3.2 million hits. These video diaries, both painfully intimate and remarkably transparent glimpses inside one man's healing journey, inspired over 50,000 e-mails and comments on both Youtube and Facebook and, eventually, led to Shane's correspondence with "Designing Women" creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, who eventually proposed to expand that video into a full-length documentary that feels as much a celebration of love and life as it is a poignant and pointed glimpse into the personal side of the gay marriage issue and, maybe even moreso, a glimpse into fundamental human rights.
While it deserves to be noted that Tom's family chose to not cooperate with the film, a fact that occasionally leads to a bit of a one-sided feel, Bloodworth-Thomason works around this quite adeptly by the way she focuses the film in such a way that doesn't ignore the family but also appears to consciously not condemn them.
Bridegroom, which many thought might make the doc feature short list for the upcoming Academy Awards, won the Audience Award at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival and picked up a few other film festival prizes over the past year before being picked up for a limited theatrical and home video release by indie distributor Virgil Films & Entertainment. While the film got left out of a crowded doc field this year, that shouldn't lessen its popularity as one of the year's most genuinely moving and thought-provoking documentary features.
Homegrown Hoosier Film Festival fans will recognize a familiar face in the credits as Benjy Gaither (The Last Ride) contributed the film's beautifully realized and heartfelt soundtrack.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic