Cowboys and Angels is the brainchild of writer/director David Gleeson and should open several doors in Hollywood for him and his phenomenally talented cast. Gleeson’s film tells the tale of Shane and Vincent, two opposite-minded Irish young men who, by way of a lack of options, have opted to become roommates. They soon reveal their sexualities to each other (Shane is straight while Vincent is gay) and the seemingly predictable and formulaic storyline appears evident. This, however, is not a tale of “conversion” or dominance, but rather a study of what people truly desire and why they are the way they are. The result is a well-crafted, highly-engaging chronicling of young life and the confusion of young life in Ireland today.
The two main characters of Shane and Vincent are played magnificently by Michael Legge and Allen Leech respectively. The task of portraying a very well written and complex main character, Shane, does not seem a daunting one at all to Legge. In fact, his willingness to truly inhabit his character and give a heartfelt personality to him marks Legge as a solid professional. And keep an eye out for Legge as a star on the rise because his eyes can melt and smolder your heart and chief reproductive organ. Leech also plays his character with a warmth, sense of humor and passion that is rarely given to gay characters by actors and is a welcome change from the stereotypical norm. In addition, both men have a palpable on-screen chemistry which translates to a higher degree of interest in the lives of their characters and those around them. Highly admirable performances are also put in by the actors playing Shane’s crush Gemma (Amy Shiels), the drug-dealing neighbor Keith (David Murray) and Shane’s willing mentor Jerry (Frank Kelly). These fine actors as well as the other minor characters give a wonderful sense of balance to the main characters and to the story itself
Also well worth mentioning is Gleeson’s vision as a director. It is strange how film festivals provide an outlet for cinematic experimentation, but very few filmmakers actually use it. The look of Cowboys and Angels, however, is the result of a director exploring this experimentation to its fullest. Whereas most film festival submissions stick to the conventional methods of direction, Gleeson embraces innovation by combining traditional proscenium viewpoints with sweeping fast-motion photography and tender singular shots. There are several points in this film that you could easily freeze-frame and have a photograph with the lighting depth and human fragility that would be worthy of display in the Guggenheim.
Cowboys and Angels is a sincere gem of a picture that should translate very well to a mass audience even off of the gay film festival circuit. Gleeson doesn’t let his film shy away from its subject matter, its characters or its meaning and the finished product is something that crosses many boundaries of nationality, culture, and sexuality.
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