VOD Review - Morgan (2012)

Michael D. Akers really impressed me with his directorial debut Gone, But Not Forgotten (2003). It wasn't perfect. It was low budget, but Akers' writing and casting showed signs of promise. He showed signs of a filmmaker with superb storytelling skills and great insight into the human condition. He also had a keen eye and ear for the exploration of compassion, grace and love. This movie is Akers' fourth directorial effort and if there is any pattern emerging for his work, it's that Akers' main characters are always suffering from some kind of physical loss. In Gone, But Not Forgotten, Akers' protagonist has amnesia and has the loss of his memory. Here, Akers' titular character is paraplegic and has lost the use of his legs, and just like Akers' debut feature, the essential question goes to the identity of that character with that loss and who he is in spite of it.

Leo Minaya (Manito) stars as Morgan Oliver, a New York bartender and competitive athlete who's won several trophies in basketball and cycling but who was nearly killed in a bike race through the park. He crashed and broke his back. He survived, but it left him paralyzed from the waist down. At the start of the film, Morgan seems acclimated to his situation, but there are indications that his injury was rather recent, probably within the year.

Jack Kesy in "Morgan"
Jack Kesy co-stars as Dean Kagen, a real estate agent and ex-military who sacrificed a lot of his life in order to care for his mother who eventually died of cancer. Dean initially approaches Morgan who's out on the street in his wheelchair. He later resists the comparison, but Dean's attraction to Morgan might be due to the similarity of Morgan being in an infirmed position like Dean's mother was.

Another reason for Dean's attraction might be because Morgan is what his family jokingly calls a hot latin lover. Leo Minaya who plays Morgan is hispanic. Jack Kesy who plays Dean is not. Kesy looks and sounds like the child that Ryan Gosling and James Franco would have had. That aside, both Minaya and Kesy are heterosexual so there's no actual attraction between the two. Yet, Minaya and Kesy make their sex scene together seem just as natural as the sex scene in Akers' debut feature where both actors were actually gay.

Of the four films Akers has directed, this one is probably the best produced and the best looking. It's also the best written. It's clear that Akers is a filmmaker who is improving as he goes along. Akers is still a few steps away from directing a big-budget action flick, but there is an action-like scene or a scene of peril in Gone, But Not Forgotten. If you compare that scene to the scene of peril in Morgan, the vast improvement in Akers' directing and editing is apparent.

Like with Gone, But Not Forgotten, Akers also makes good use of the setting of this movie. His 2003 debut took place in the woods and near a lake in California. Morgan takes place exclusively in New York, and mainly in Morgan and Dean's apartments, but even for a character limited to a wheelchair, Akers' film never feels limited.

This is actually ironic because the theme or point of the movie is to understand that sometimes we, as people, are limited. The focus is obviously on the boundaries of this one man in a wheelchair, but the lesson can be extrapolated for anyone who fails to see that when we've been supremely affected due to a loss, often it requires us to redefine things in our lives like success. Often, it requires us to re-evaluate our values or what's really important.

Leo Minaya in "Morgan"
Mainly, movies about people in wheelchairs are political or have to do with injured soldiers. Probably the closet comparison here is Coming Home (1978). Other examples include The Men (1950) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989). Films like Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954) and James Cameron's Avatar (2009) had characters in wheelchairs, but those disabilities were used more as plot devices. Akers' film, co-written by Sandon Berg, which was highly researched, including Akers' actually interviewing disabled men and disabled gay men, really immerses us into what life is like for a man in Morgan's position.

Akers rarely has many female characters in his movies. Here, he has two distinctive female characters, as in his 2003 debut. Madalyn McKay plays Morgan's mother, Peg Oliver, and Darra Boyd plays Morgan's best friend, Lane Williams. Both are incredible. Both get great moments and I really enjoyed watching those moments over and over.

Like with most independent gay movies, Morgan played at various film festivals geared toward LGBT audiences. It was released last fall on DVD, which is when I should have seen it, but I didn't. The distributor and online movie retailer, TLA Video, made it available to stream via its video on demand service this past month, so I was able to catch up with it.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but contains language and sexuality.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 27 mins.


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