DVD Review - Akron

Director and co-writer Brian O'Donnell wants to test a romance with a very personal tragedy. What if you found out your boyfriend's mother killed your brother? Could you still be in a relationship with that boyfriend? O'Donnell wants the answer to the second question to be yes. Yet, he makes the answer a little too easy. Obviously, there are a lot of dramatic hurdles inherent, and if this story is able to get over them, there is some stuff that O'Donnell needed to lay down, which he doesn't quite do.

Matthew Frias plays Benny Cruz, a pre-med student at the University of Akron who is of Mexican descent. Edmund Donovan plays Christopher Welling, a fellow college student who says he's studying arts and sciences rather vaguely. Christopher is a tall, chiseled, white guy who meets Benny in an open field where a group is playing a game of touch football that they call "mudball." Each claims to be impressed with each other's moves, but O'Donnell never shows much of the game, so that connection between the two rings hollow.

O'Donnell does what a lot of Hollywood romances do. A cute montage of the two people smiling is a short hand for a couple falling in love, but the montage isn't enough. Eventually, Benny learns that Christopher's mom killed Benny's brother. It was an accident, but she admits she did it. Apparently, she never went to prison, but she and Christopher moved to Florida. Benny was only six at the time, so it was about 14 years ago, but it was still a significant moment. Yet, it doesn't seem to matter to Benny. He says as much to Christopher and he doesn't even really talk about it.

It's almost as if Benny never really loved his brother. His brother's death was a long time ago, but we're supposed to buy that Benny and Christopher are so in love without either of them having a conversation where this significant moment or either person's family is discussed. The montage just shows them smiling at each other. We assume that their romance is built on nothing but cute looks, not on either getting to know each other.

Christopher says he likes talking to smart people, but O'Donnell never proves that. We never see the two boys having a smart conversation. The only thing we get is that the two boys are in lust with each other. Their physicality is the only proof or evidence of their attraction. We get not much more, so when Benny's parents come down against the relationship, I don't believe why Benny would struggle, weighing his family's heartache with his own lust.

It's a bit of a cop-out that Benny seemingly has no feelings for his dead brother. It's a bit of a cop-out that Christopher is angry at his mother. There aren't many stakes in the relationship between the two. There isn't much depth in their relationship either. It's purely physical. The reasons for their love beyond physicality is never made clear.

There are three parents in the movie. Benny's mom and dad, as well as Christopher's mom. Amy da Luz plays Christopher's guilt-ridden mom, Carol. Andréa Burns plays Benny's heartbroken mom, Lenora, and Joseph Melendez plays Benny's cool and compassionate dad, David. All three actors give great performances as the parents. O'Donnell gives himself credit for this movie being post-gay or a movie that has gay characters and being gay isn't an issue, and it is nice to see Melendez as a Latino father who has no problem with his gay son whatsoever.  This is in contrast to Benjamin Bratt in La Mission, Esai Morales in Gun Hill Road or Jorge Perugorría in Viva. However, more time is devoted to making the parents progressive than building the romance between the boys that being post-gay doesn't much matter.

Not Rated but contains sexual situations and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 28 mins.


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