Trailer for the film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzfCuMK4vDs
Warning: Spoilers for On the Fringe and mentions of suicide and abuse!
On the Fringe of the Wild is a new film from Breaking Glass Productions about teen boys in Canada in the early 2000’s who are trying to come to terms with their queerness. They deal with toxic masculinity and homophobia from their parents, and peers.
At the beginning of the film, the protagonist, Peter (Harrison Browne), is bullied by schoolmate, Miles, and Miles’ girlfriend. Petter is drawing a rabbit in his sketchbook when Miles and his girlfriend come up to him, steal his sketchbook, pants him, and call him the f-slur. This scene seemed like overkill. I would have liked to get to know Peter’s character a bit better outside of knowing that he likes to draw, and experiences homophobia.
The homophobia that Peter experiences at the hands of his father, was also a bit heavy handed. His father is toxic masculinity epitimized, repeatedly telling Peter needs to “become a man.” Peter’s father takes him on a hunting trip for this reason. As the official synopsis of the film says, “tensions run high and Peter runs away”, and “Lost, cold and reaching his breaking point, Peter meets Jack, who’s also desperate to escape his toxic family situation.”
I did think that Peter and Jack’s relationship was quite cute. Jack rescues Peter from the cold and from falling through the ice. Then, they find a cabin together to take shelter. Of course, because it’s set in Canada, they have a huddle for warmth, a classic romance (and fanfiction) trope. They also play fight and throw snowballs at each other. I will say their “draw me naked” scene was a bit sudden, but also obligatory after Titanic and Portrait of a Lady on Fire.
But then the movie took a turn, which I should have remembered it would, since the synopsis says that Peter and Jack are “torn apart.” After all, Peter’s parents are worried about him, so he returns home. But Jack is still around and he invites Peter to his ex- boyfriend Miles’ party. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, Miles is Jack’s ex-boyfriend, but he was abusive. So, at the party they play spin the bottle/seven minutes of heaven, which seemed overly tropey to me.This may be because I was very young in the early 2000’s, but I’ve only ever seen those games played in videos, rather than in reality. After they’re seen kissing, the homophobia that the boys experience at the hands of their peers and their parents escalate.
I’m not going to spoil all of the details of it, but one of the gay characters does end up killing himself. I knew this may happen since the film was advertised as a “Romeo and Juliet tale” which is fundamentally a tragedy, involving the suicide of young forbidden lovers. But I was hoping that they would be able to sucessfully high tail it out to Quebec together which they planned on doing. Is Quebec the San Francisco of Canada? I suppose the film was successul and making me feel sad, which it was clearly aiming to do. But it didn’t need to make me sad because I’m already queer. Which sort of made it feel like the film was really for straight people who are on the fence about how they feel about LGBTQ+ people.
Honestly, it really hurts to see another queer character kill themself onscreen. It fits into a trope that I know all too well, that is, “bury your gays”. I get what the director, Emma Catalfamo was going for with it, the message that gender roles and toxic masculinity are lethal, but it comes at the price of further queer trauma. Because not to be dramatic, but seeing that did traumatize me a little, in part because I’ve seen it onscreen so often. To better understand this trope, you can watch this video by The Take.
The film also had a lot of plot points happening with various characters, it’s like Peter was the main character but he wasn’t really because there was also very complicated family situations happening to Jack and Miles, which were never truly resolved. In conclusion, I didn’t hate this film, but I wouldn’t really recommend it either unless you really like tragic films. But for me it was a miss because as I’ve said before, I just want a queer happy ending for once. You can watch the film on October 12 on iTunes/Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, DirecTv, and through additional local cable & satellite providers, and on DVD.