One of the most prevalent criticisms about gay film is that it often addresses the same handful of issues: HIV, male hustlers, "straight" men pursuing their true affections on the down low. Or, alternatively, gay movies are comedies that all too often are less than funny or memorable. Why, audience members frequently complain, can’t gay movies be about people who just happen to be gay, instead of focusing on their gayness to the exclusion of all else?
In director/co-writer Michael D. Akers’ "Morgan", for better or for worse, the critics will get what they have asked for. The title character (played by Leo Minaya) is a competitive sort, an athletic young man left paralyzed from the waist down by a bicycle accident suffered while taking part in a race across New York City. A year later, he’s still rebuilding his life, but it isn’t easy: Morgan has money woes and isn’t yet ready to take a good look at his future prospects. He’s stuck on the past, trying to compensate for having lost the use of his legs and find ways to reclaim everything that he once had.
One major ramification of the accident is that it has put an end to Morgan’s sex life. When he meets a handsome, athletic man named Dean (Jack Kesy), Morgan starts to consider how to move forward and have a love life. With the right prescription, he can function once again, sort of, but the trade-off might be having to give up on his dreams of returning to athletic competition: The meds push his blood pressure dangerously high.
Dean has had his share of difficulty, as well, having served as his mother’s caretaker for years as she slowly succumbed to cancer. Morgan is vital and full of life and energy, but will he push himself too hard, too fast, and end up worse off than he is! Will Dean be drawn into the role of caretaker once more, and have to sacrifice his life all over again?
The focus here is on how people who have suffered through devastating experiences reorient themselves and carry on. When there is no easy answer to a dilemma, is it enough simply to choose the best of two unsatisfactory paths and try to be content? When trauma strikes, how do you undertake to live in a way that honors the experience, but doesn’t bow to fear? Those are universal themes, and Morgan could have been a straight guy finding love, and renewed confidence, with someone of the opposite sex. The movie would have worked just as well if it had been about a heterosexual guy.
But "Morgan" never loses sight of the fact that sexuality isn’t "only" part of a person; it’s a major, even driving, force in life, and who you love does affect other aspects of how you live. Morgan wants for his new boyfriend to be out, but not too out; public displays of same-sex affection make Morgan nervous. This is a movie about people who happen to be gay, yes, but it’s a movie that cleverly calibrates itself to remain true to who its characters are.