Archive Review: Milk (2008)

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Milk is the story of Harvey Milk, played by Sean Penn, the first openly gay man elected in 1977 to the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco. One of the first scenes in the film is of Milk flirting with a young hippie Scott Smith (James Franco) in a subway station, immediately illuminating a cosy intimacy that consists throughout the entire movie which contrasts wonderfully against the monumental political movement Milk was an integral part of. The film begins by showing authentic footage of the death of Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone by a former supervisor Dan White in 1977., Gus Van Sant’s choice to begin the film this way separates the humour from the overriding seriousness of the 1970s gay-rights movement from the constant threat of violence and danger. In this way he expands the dimensions of the unity and determination within the gay community both generally and intimately between Milk and Scott.

Milk begins humbly as a camera-store owner with his partner Scott. However, he rejected being undermined and discriminated against by society, believing he should always be unashamedly who he is. This lead him to unite tolerant and gay businesses becoming an undeniable force to be reckoned with, and even more so when he applied this power to politics. The viewers’ admiration for Milk becomes more extensive as he unwaveringly fights for equality despite the adversity from the elite homosexuals – who disliked his confrontational tactic and wanted to remain discreet-, the nation-wide, anti-homosexual rights referendum led by the Anita Bryant and the eventual strain and end of his relationships with both Scott and Jack Lira (Diego Luna). Milk is all-encompassing, seamlessly covering love, death, politics and ultimately an amazing aspect of American and homosexual culture.

Milk (2008), directed by Gus Van Sant, is released on Blu-ray disc and DVD in the UK by Momentum Pictures, Certificate 15.

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  1. avatar

    This is a fantastic piece of writing with excellent commentary which brings the main character alive. It has inspired me to find out more about Milk and will definitely watch it on DVD.

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