Latter Days (2003)

Latter Days (2003) Easily one of my favorite gay romances, Latter Days is the story of a “promiscuous gay party animal falls for a young Mormon missionary, leading to crisis, cliché, and catastrophe.” (IMDb)

Wes Ramsey plays the pretty but shallow party boy, Christian, who works at Lila’s restaurant in L.A. with his roommate, Julie, an aspiring musician.  When a group of young Mormon missionaries move in next door in their complex, Christian (with Julie’s support) makes a bet with two other co-workers that he can seduce one of the Mormons and get his “sacred undies” as a trophy.

Steve Sandvoss co-stars as Elder Aaron Davis, the shy young Mormon from Pocatello, Idaho, who Christian quickly sets his sights on.  While Ramsey is very beautiful, Sandvoss is just downright gorgeous; in the film he radiates an angelic innocence and sincerity that makes him irresistible.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who played Tommy Solomon in the 3rd Rock From the Sun TV series, has a supporting role as Elder Paul Ryder, one of Aaron’s fellow missionaries.

Latter Days is available on Hulu and Amazon Instant Video ($2.99 to rent/ $9.99 to own,) and is also available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

[Note: Major Spoilers after the break.]

Christian watches for an opportunity to talk to Aaron alone, and gets his chance when he sees Aaron heading for the complex’s laundry room. Chris quickly becomes intrigued by Aaron as they get acquainted, especially since Aaron resists his charms – although it quickly becomes apparent that Aaron is attracted to Chris.

Soon afterwards, Chris manages to cut his leg on an outdoor facet while Aaron is sitting outside studying. When Chris passes out from the sight of his blood, Aaron helps Chris into his apartment and treats his wound for him (although with Chris standing there in a jockstrap he’s a little distracted at first.) Aaron then helps Chris to his bed, where Chris strips off his shirt and falls back complaining of feeling hot. Aaron fetches a cold towel, rather obviously scoping out Chris’s body as he returns, and starts to use it to comfort Chris, wiping his brow. Chris pulls Aaron down toward him for a kiss, but Aaron just puts his head on Chris’s chest and whispers a confession that he is a virgin and has “never done anything like this before.” Chris murmurs that it doesn’t have to mean anything, just a bit of fun between friends, but Aaron gets offended that Chris can be so casual about Aaron’s first time and accuses him of being shallow. Upset that he has let out his secret and almost gave into his gay yearnings with someone like Chris, he storms out of the apartment.

Soon afterward, Aaron meets Chris’s boss, Lila, (without knowing who she is) while out on missionary calls with Elder Ryder. He sees a woman come out of a hospice crying, and when she sits down on a bench outside he goes over to her and tries to comfort her. She tells them that her lover and best friend had just tied, and Aaron tells her a story about how, when he was little, he would look at the Sunday comics pages, putting his face right up to the page, and how he was amazed that the beautiful pictures were just made up of millions of tiny dots. He explains to Lila that he thinks life is like that; that to us we seem to all be just separated little dots in the universe, but that from God’s perspective it all makes sense, an incredible picture that is beautiful and funny. As they part, Lila thanks him, and gives Aaron her business card, making him promise to come by the restaurant for a free meal.

Then one evening Christian meets Aaron returning home, walking his bicycle and carrying a damaged one. Aaron tells Chris that his missionary partner, Ryder, got hit by a car and was at the hospital. Aaron is upset, blaming himself for not paying attention and warning Ryder, and Christian helps him with the bikes, following Aaron into the Mormons apartment. While he is trying to comfort Aaron they go into a long, passionate kiss, and as the camera swings around them we suddenly see Ryder and the other two missionaries standing in the doorway, watching them kiss.

Aaron is sent home the next day in disgrace, facing ex-communication from the Mormon church for “the grave sin of homosexuality.” Chris finds out too late to stop his leaving, but learns from Ryder that Aaron has a five hour layover in Salt Lake City, so he rushes off to find him there.

Christian finds Aaron at the Salt Lake airport, standing outside in a snowstorm that has hit the city. Chris tries to convince Aaron that he truly is in love with him, that Aaron isn’t just his latest conquest. Because of his beliefs, Aaron is still reluctant, but when Chris starts to walk away Aaron grabs him and gives him a passionate kiss. As they break apart and stand there, looking at each other, a janitor comes along and opens the door, calling them to come back in because the airport is closing due to the snowstorm.

They both end up in a hotel room at the airport, and Aaron almost immediately abandons all reluctance, giving us an awesome sight as he strips off his clothes in front of Christian. A beautiful make-out session follows, and when the dialogue picks up again we learn that they’ve been “doing it” for two and a half hours. Aaron asks if that’s good, and Chris just starts to laugh and assures him that it was awesome. They start to talk, and when Aaron says that he doesn’t think Christian can understand just how cut off from his life he will be as a gay Mormon, Chris tells him the story of how his father abandoned Chris in a blizzard, because he didn’t want to raise a sissy boy, and how he was saved by a burly rescuer found him huddling in a cave.

When Christian wakes up the next morning, Aaron has gone – the only trace of him left in the room is his pocket watch – so he returns to L.A. Aaron has returned home to face ex-communication from the Mormon church, led by his own father, the Stake President. His father stays away from home to avoid Aaron, and his mother is cold and abusive towards him, telling him how sick he is when he tries to tell her that Christian loves him. Overwhelmed by the condemnation from his parents, Aaron tries to commit suicide by slashing his wrists, and when he’s released from the hospital they put him into a “treatment facility” to be “cured” of his homosexuality.

Meanwhile, back in L.A. Christian can’t stop moping over Aaron. Egged on by his roommate Julie, Aaron starts calling every Davis family in Pocatello, Idaho, trying to locate Aaron. When he finally tracks down the right number, he realizes that he has been doodling that same number all through his search. When he calls, Aaron’s mother answers and when she realizes who is calling she bitches him out and hangs up on him. Chris is happy though, since “if he really didn’t want to talk to me she wouldn’t have had a problem putting him on.” Assuming that it’s only a matter of time before he reaches Aaron, Chris and Julie go out to celebrate, not knowing that Aaron is attempting suicide at the same time.

Christian tries calling Aaron the next day, but gets Mrs. Davis again. She tells him that Aaron had taken a razor to his wrists, and that “thanks to you I’ve lost my son! I hope you burn! I hope you burn in Hell!” Chris is naturally devastated, believing that Aaron was dead, and goes into a grief-stricken depression. Julie and his boss, Lila, both try to comfort him, but he can’t stop mourning for Aaron. An AIDS patient who Chris has been delivering meals to finally tells him that he has got to find a way to get through his grief, and he decides to go to Pocatello to give Aaron’s pocket watch back to his mother. His obvious grief, and seeing the engraving “The greatest of these is Charity” inside the watch, make her relent towards Chris, and she dashes outside calling to him, but she is too late and he is already driving away.

When Aaron get out of the treatment center he returns to L.A. to find Christian, but a strange man answers the door at Chris’s apartment and Aaron leaves, thinking that Chris has moved on and forgotten him. With nowhere else to go, Aaron remembers Lila’s offer of a dinner and goes to the restaurant. She welcomes him warmly, offering him whatever he wants, and seeing that “looks like hell” gets him to unload to her. As he is telling her what has happened to him, Chris comes out of the kitchen with a serving tray, which he drops in total shock when he sees Aaron at the bar. Their reunion is incredibly touching.

The movie ends with a final scene at the restaurant, as the entire staff gathers together for a Thanksgiving dinner with Lila, and Aaron is there with Christian, finally feeling like he is really home with family.

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As a final piece from this movie, I’d like to share a music video that someone made using scenes from Latter Days with my favorite song from the soundtrack, Feels Like Home. This one is dedicated to the man who has come into my life, Harry. ;D

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Robert

"Dunrobin MacDhai" is a name I picked for myself decades ago, when I was in the SCA, in tribute to my Scots heritage. I always liked the Scottish name Dunrobin, and MacDhai is a Gaelic variation on my family's Clan name. I am a gay man in my sixties who finally accepted himself and came back out of the closet after more than 30 years of celibacy. A lover of Liberty, I am an anarchist and do not believe in the myth of "authority", whether it's the "State" or organized religion.

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