“It was a four-story fall—from the top of the roof to the concrete pavement below. He had just passed his 29th birthday.” Bridegroom, a gripping documentary that pivots on brutal familial homophobia, opens with a voiceover that marks the very moment a young gay couple’s shared life comes to its end. A tearjerker that charms, infuriates, and devastates, director Linda Bloodworth-Thomason’s film uses home movie clips, interviews with family and friends, re-created text messages, and a chilling 911 call to detail the stories—and then, tragically, the story—of Tom Bridegroom and Shane Bitney Crone. Part of the doc’s power lies in the way it deftly captures the masks and struggles so many gay men live through as they forge their identity—from the hypersensitive kid who becomes mired in depression as he grapples with his sexuality, to the closeted golden boy whose cheerful demeanor masks his internal battles; from the innately (if not stereotypically) artistic guy to the towering all-star athlete who’s “a man’s man.” Sometimes these seemingly contradictory selves inhabit one body. Shane and Tom came from similar but ultimately very different conservative Republican backgrounds. The differences manifest following Tom’s death, when his family behaves with staggering cruelty, including barring Shane from the funeral. Shane’s YouTube video diaries documenting this painful time went viral, eventually catching the attention of TV director and producer Bloodworth-Thomason (Designing Women), whom the couple had met at a wedding just a year before Tom’s death. Without forcing the material into facile uplift, Bloodworth-Thomason still edges it into the realm of inspirational, never overplaying the anguish or soft-pedaling the bigotry at the heart of the story.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 2, 2013