Festival Review: I Am Michael (2015)

I Am Michael

Charting Michael Glatze’s path from gay poster-boy to Christian pastor, Justin Kelly’s I Am Michael is a confused, emotionless journey back into the closet.

Only God Forgives

by Mark Wilshin

I Am Michael

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Taking the true story of ex-gay Michael Glatze, who metamorphosed from the editor of a San Francisco gay magazine to a heterosexual pastor in Wyoming, Justin Kelly’s I Am Michael walks the opposite path to most coming-out films, charting Glatze’s “coming in” following panic attacks and a deepening interest in the Bible. It’s certainly thought-provoking, raising questions about the role of homosexuality in a broader sense of identity, but Glatze’s conversion to heterosexuality here is a shambles, unable to answer the same arguments he poses earlier in the film or even show the emotional anguish Glatze suffers on his journey. The film ends with Michael suffering heart palpitations from the pulpit, dismissively suggesting that Glatze is living a lie. But it’s not enough to counter the muddled arguments against homosexuality spouted during the second half of the film, which linger like an odious bad smell, its questions about the construction of identity inadequate and unresolved. Which makes it so hard to understand why so many of Hollywood’s gay men wanted to get involved, including executive producer Gus Van Sant. But tracing one man’s path from gay man on the Castro to straight Christian, Justin Kelly’s I Am Michael fails to get under Glatze’s skin. Instead it’s a bipolar film of two halves, charming for the first half but clumsy in the second, with a script that is unable to grasp the sensitivities of gay Christianity. And unfortunately, Justin Kelly’s I Am Michael isn’t so much a post-gay film as confused, its own identity very much in crisis.

I Am Michael is now showing at the 65th Berlin Film Festival

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