Los Angeles Film Festival 2011
By Don Simpson | July 12, 2011
Writers: Mike Akel, Matt Patterson
Starring: Greg Wise, Chad Anthony Miller, Troy Schremmer, Janelle Schremmer, Laurie Coker, Megan Minto, Steven Schaefer
Seth (Greg Wise) and his boyfriend, William (Chad Anthony Miller), show up at the lake house while Seth’s unsuspecting family members are enjoying their annual week-long vacation. Before they announce their arrival, Seth confesses to William that his family does not know they are coming. As it turns out, Seth has been estranged from his family ever since he abandoned working beside his older Christian minister brother, Thomas (Troy Schremmer), and ran away to live with William, whom he met on Chatroulette. The Biederman family presumably does not know that Seth is gay and they certainly do not know that he has been sharing a bedroom (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) with William.
Seth’s arrival with William in tow catches the Biederman clan off guard. The tension — stemming from the most socially conservative member of the family, Thomas — reaches its boiling point during dinner. Presumably, Thomas, a straight-laced minister and family man, does not like Seth and William discussing how they met in front of his young and impressionable children, but we know there is more to this story that is fueling his outrage.
The Biederman family comes around to accepting Seth and William fairly quickly, and Thomas remains the only holdout. (Admittedly, I am a little surprised by how quickly their mother, played by Laurie Coker, comes around to accepting Seth.) Mattie (Janelle Schremmer) — Thomas’ significantly more open-minded better half — tries to convince him to open his heart to Seth, but it seems that Thomas will never get beyond his homophobic Christian biases.
Seth and Thomas’ sister (Megan Minto) is married to a rotund husband, Chris (Steven Schaefer) and it seems Chris’ primary purpose is to provide some much needed comic relief– especially when paired with William — to the otherwise serious family drama.
The chemistry between the real-life married couple Troy and Janelle Schremmer is undeniable, thus contributing to Writer-director Mike Akel’s (Chalk) obvious desire to achieve cinematic realism. That said — Akel and Matt Patterson’s script is so well-written that it sometimes plays in detriment to the film’s sense of realism.
An Ordinary Family conveys the age-old conflict between religion and homosexuality from a relatively unbiased perspective. Akel — who co-wrote the script with Patterson — never gets too preachy, though it is quite obvious that Akel is of the opinion that Christians should be more accepting of gays; otherwise the portrayal of the Christian minister is just as favorable as that of the gay characters. Accordingly, An Ordinary Family will be enjoyable for Christians and gays alike — though there is no denying that its target audience is gay Christians, a niche crowd if ever there was one. I fit into none of these categories yet applaud An Ordinary Family for its open-mindedness and its ability to intelligently discuss (without ever becoming argumentative) the acceptance of gays by Christians without offending either side of the equation. Also, An Ordinary Family is one of the few films that prominently features gay characters in leading roles that I would not consider a gay film, which is something I wish there will be more of in the future.