Writer/director Tom Gustafson’s 2008 indie flick Were The World Mine is a fantastical, musical coming of age tale that’s not so much a re-telling of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream as it is an homage. A very gay homage. (Though, seriously, if you’ve seen the 1999 film version with Rupert Everett, Michelle Pfeiffer and Christian Bale, I’m not sure it gets gayer than THAT.) It also, to me, feels like alternate universe Dead Poets Society fan fiction: What if Neil’s mother had left his father and let him be the kind of man he was born to be?
I think he could’ve become Timothy, this film’s engaging lead character. Tanner Cohen, who plays Timothy, is quite the find. He’s a strong singer and empathetic actor, and I absolutely understood Timothy’s reckless urge to make everyone around him succumb to Love-in-Idleness. Who among us hasn’t wished we could make people walk in our shoes and see the world through our eyes? Timothy gets the chance to make that wish come to life, and, like in Shakespeare’s story, “the course of true love” doesn’t quite run smooth. Wendy Robie, whom I didn’t even realize played Nadine on Twin Peaks until I hit IMBD, is the Mr. Keating to Timothy’s Neil. But Ms. Tebbit isn’t just an inspirational English teacher, she’s genuinely otherworldly, and Robie absolutely embodies that quality. She, and the dreamy musical sequences and gorgeous costumes really help make Were The World Mine the charming, beautiful fantasy that it is. The supporting cast is also wonderful, with great turns by Nathaniel David Becker as Timothy’s love interest Jonathan, the absolutely gorgeous Ricky Goldman and Zelda Williams as Max and Frankie, and Jill Larson (Opal, AMC), as the principal’s repressed wife.
It’s not the deepest movie in the world — in many way it’s overly simplistic and doesn’t resolve the issues it raises regarding gay marriage and tolerance — and the sound quality at times gave me fits, but what I loved about it is that it made me shut my cynical side up. Whatever reservations I may have had in the first half hour were gone by the end, and I was genuinely happy as the film came to a close.
Like Shelter, it’s a movie that makes you feel good about family, about love and about being who you are. And that’s a message we need put out there just as much as the more serious and wrenching messages that come out of films like Brokeback Mountain or Milk.