Analysing the ‘Latter Days’ Story by Julie Bozza

I wanted to blog about one of my favourite Queer Romance films, Latter Days. It was written and directed by C. Jay Cox, and released in 2003.

As you might suspect from the title, one of the main characters is a young Morman man. Aaron is from Idaho, sent to Los Angeles as a missionary. He and his three fellow missionaries move into a small house next door to Christian, an openly gay party boy and aspiring actor.

Writer-director Cox was raised as a Mormon and completed a mission, and he has said that Aaron and Christian represent two aspects of his own history, separated by years and experience. He wondered what these two instances of himself would say to each other if ever they met.

While the film isn’t perfectly crafted, there are some story points that really resonate with me. With a QRM theme this year of us all needing stories, I thought I’d examine three of those story points in a little detail.

Caution: Here be spoilers!

One

Christian is cynical enough to make a bet that he can seduce one of the Mormons. He is soon very focused on Aaron, the most vulnerable of the four. Christian’s first real chance at seduction comes after a moment in which he himself is vulnerable: he accidentally cuts himself while in the garden, and faints, and Aaron helps him inside and tends the wound (which happens to be on his tanned and shapely derriere).

A partially dressed Christian ends up lying back on his bed, and there is no denying that Aaron is tempted to follow him down there. In fact, even calling it ‘temptation’ is wrong: in his pure-hearted innocence, Aaron is willing to place his faith in his own instincts, which guide him towards what feels to be a wholesome and honest encounter.

Thinking only to encourage him, Christian murmurs the reassurance that sex doesn’t have to mean anything. And that’s when Aaron pulls back, stung and annoyed. Of course it means something! He walks out, and begins building a protective barrier or two.

I love that the innocent Aaron was in tune enough with his instincts to choose sex and the chance for love despite having been taught this was wrong. I also love that Christian – who isn’t emotionally ready to deal honestly with Aaron – is the one to aptly if unwittingly undermine the encounter.

Aaron’s rejection is the first prompt for Christian to start mending his ways, and to learn to properly value life and love. Just think of Darcy brooding over Elizabeth’s retort that he hadn’t behaved as a gentleman would… and then starting to do something about it. I love stories in which love is the prompt and reason for the protagonists to learn and grow – and love is their reward, too.

Two

OK, major spoilers here!

Later, when Aaron and Christian are caught kissing, Aaron is sent home and is excommunicated from the church. His father rejects him, and his mother is unsympathetic. Aaron attempts suicide. And, for a long while, Christian believes this attempt to have been successful.

In shock and in deep mourning, Christian finally grows into humility and wisdom. He becomes quiet to the point where we wonder if he’s been broken by the experience.

Win Things: Julie would like to give away a copy of any of her titles, in any format, to three separate people who comment on this post.

Finally, however, a newly independent and healthy Aaron walks into the restaurant where Christian works, and after a stunned moment Christian embraces him wholeheartedly. Nothing needs to be said to know that these two people are now united by a shared love and an honest acceptance.

And, frankly, I love that the film manages to have its cake and eat it, too, by being a tragedy with a happy ending.

Three

Over the course of the film, the restaurant – presided over by a woman named Lila – becomes the emotional home of all the characters we care about. The final scene shows this family-by-choice celebrating Thanksgiving together. The focus isn’t on Aaron and Christian as a couple, but on them being part of a loving family. And the mood is sincere to the point of solemnity, rather than happy or joyful. Which is certainly an interesting way to end a romantic story!

I have to admit that at first I felt cheated by not having a more light-hearted scene to finish with, showing Christian and Aaron simply starting to enjoy life together. However, what we are given is certainly more profound, and will provide the couple with the solid bedrock they need in order to flourish as individuals and as a couple.

I find it very interesting, too, that we finish with a Thanksgiving celebration. Of course, even twelve years ago, the story couldn’t have concluded with a wedding, or even a proposal accepted, as it might have done if it were a straight romance. And so Cox chose a different kind of ceremony. This significantly changes the focus and feel of the story’s denouement.

To me, Thanksgiving is all about being grateful for what we have today, and for what we have harvested (in all senses, literal and otherwise) from the past year. That does seem very apt to the story Cox has told.

Again in my view, a wedding is fundamentally a statement of faith in the future. The focus is on a couple joining together, not only for today but for all their lives thereafter. Family and friends are there to witness these promises, but the couple is at the heart of it all.

And I missed those ‘wedding’ aspects in the final scene of the film. I missed the sense of a shared future, and I missed a focus on Aaron and Christian. However, I wonder whether Cox didn’t make the best choice after all. For Christian and Aaron to be thankful for their own growth, for finding each other again, and for their new family – that’s pretty profound. Perhaps it is entirely right that we leave them to explore the rest of their lives without us looking on.

To conclude

I hope you’ve found this interesting, and that (if you haven’t already seen it yet) you’ll give this film a try. Steve Sandvoss and Wes Ramsey as Aaron and Christian are perfect for the roles. They are wonderfully supported by Jacqueline Bisset as Lila, as well as Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Amber Benson and others.

Here’s to more Queer Romance – across the whole spectrum – that like Latter Days attempts to address the larger questions in life!


Win Things:

Julie would like to give away a copy of any of her titles, in any format, to three separate people who comment on this post.

And don’t forget to enter the massive QRM physical book giveaway pack!


Julie’s Queer Romance Recommendations

Maurice by E.M. Forster
All the Little Moments by G. Benson
A Pride of Poppies (charity) anthology from Manifold Press


About Julie Bozza

julie bozzaJulie Bozza is an English-Australian hybrid who is fuelled by espresso, calmed by knitting, unreasonably excited by photography, and madly in love with John Keats.


About Butterfly Hunter

butterfly hunterIt started as a simple assignment for Aussie bush guide Dave Taylor – escort a lone Englishman in quest of an unknown species of butterfly. However Nicholas Goring is no ordinary tourist, his search is far from straightforward, and it’s starting to look as if the butterflies don’t want to be found. As Dave teaches Nicholas everything he needs to survive in the Outback he discovers that he too has quite a bit to learn – and that very often the best way to locate something really important is just not to want to find it…

Grab a copy on Amazon US

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30 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I loved this film, too. I distinctly remember crying while my husband rolled his eyes…but he was moved, too.

    Interesting that at first you saw the Thanksgiving scene at the end as sort of not enough – you wanted a wedding! Well, I get that, but for gay men of our age, that final Thanksgiving dinner (as you said, family of choice), really represents a vision of the future. It’s not just a “happy for now” idea, it shows that they’ve made a life and committed to it. They’re with the people who will support them forward.

    Back in the 1970s, or even the dark days of the 1980s, this was all we could hope for. This was the best HEA for us that there was. My husband I have been together 40 years now. Other than “I love you,” we had nothing to build a future on, with the support of family and friends. Turns out, it was enough.

    So, I think your final conclusion, for this movie, was right on target. Thanks for a great blog.

    • Thank you, Ulysses! I’m delighted that we have a love for this film in common. And you are so right, of course, in all you say.

      It took me a little while to appreciate the relatively sombre ending, but I never doubted that it was absolutely wonderful in terms of Christian and Aaron having a home and a family and all kinds of love. I suppose I still yearn for a little lightheartedness after all that, though… Just a glimpse of them all mellow and laughing towards the end of the meal, or a snippet of Christian and Aaron just happily mucking around while washing the dishes, or something. But that’s just me, and after all I can imagine it for myself! What Cox gave us was something quite profound, and I am only too glad that it was such a gift for you – and gladder still that you’ve had your own true ‘I love you’ for forty years, and no doubt for many more as well.

      Thank you, Ulysses, for your lovely response!

  • What a nice analysis Julie :)
    My personal favourite scene is the one where Christian gives Aaron’s watch to Aaron’s mother and she reads the engraved words. Such a great scene and such amazing words; if you wanna quote the bible, use this quote.

    • Thank you, Sarah! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. That is a very lovely scene, indeed. ♥

      … I’ve sat here for five minutes now thinking about my favourite scene. I think it’s the one where they first kiss. Aaron is upset about Paul’s accident, and Christian’s comfort instinctively becomes something more – they’re found out, and Christian is protective of Aaron. I guess that’s a significant turning point for them both, and that’s why it speaks to me.

      Anyway, thank you for commenting!

  • Latter Days is a wonderful movie. It has been a while since I watched it, but thank you for highlighting it. I hope anyone who has not seen it gives it a try. I also second your recommendation of Maurice – both the book and the movie.

  • I was pleasantly surprised at the complex characterizations of Christian and especially Aaron…I came in expecting a basic rom-com, but it’s definitely more.

    • It is certainly more, I so agree with you. It was Christian who meant the most to me, but you’re so right that they’re both great characters. I think part of the depth of the film is that the characters both go on such long journeys to win through to their happy ending.

      Thank you for commenting, Trix!

  • Great post, Julie! I haven’t seen Latter Days, but I’m sure to check it right now (and will be probably watching it this weekend). My favourite M/M film is Priest, by Antonia Bird (1994). It deals with a catholic priest in conflict because of his sexuality, but also with child molestation and with rejection and prejudice… Beware, this is a drama, I’ve never cried so much in the cinema in my life. But the film is so good I honestly recommend it.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and that you’re planning to watch Latter Days.

      Thank you for reminding me of Priest, which I’ve only seen once, way back when it was first out. As you say, I remember it being powerful stuff! Linus Roache was marvellous, wasn’t he? I’m really glad you’ve prompted me to rewatch it!

      Thank you for commenting, Susana!

  • I loved this movie!! I watched it several times actually — I thought it was wonderful and well, one of the ‘few’ LGBTQ movie with happy ending. Hey, I need my happy endings in movies too!!

    • Hello, Ami! I’m so glad to find that you love this film, too. It was truly wonderful to watch Christian and Aaron win through to their happy ending, that’s for sure. They’re such a great couple.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • I haven’t seen this film, but it definitely sounds worth watching. And I didn’t mind the spoilers at all, I kind of like knowing what happens, it lets me know what to expect & what to look forward to! :-)

    • Thank you, Pam! I’m really glad you want to give the film a go, spoilers and all! There’s so much to it beyond what I’ve talked about here, that I’m sure you’ll find all sorts of lovely surprises. I hope you enjoy it.

      Thanks again for commenting!

  • Lovely post Julie, and a favorite movie of mine as well. It covers so many emotions/themes very well. When I first watched it years ago, I actually thought at one point in the movie that it was “going there” and was beside myself. It was nice to know a plot twist could (and still can!) surprise me. I adore Wes Ramsey to this day.

    • Hello, Dianne! It’s lovely to hear from you, and to know we share a love of this film. I remember not being quite sure where it was all heading myself. And what a roller-coaster ride! It says a lot for the cast that they handled such a wide range without letting it get melodramatic. And oh my word yes, Wes Ramsey. Absolutely marvellous.

      Thank you for commenting!

  • I also loved this film and perhaps one favourite moments (of many) was when Aaron heard Julie, Christian’s room-mate, sing a song based on Christian’s thoughts and that song inspired his ‘escape’ to try and find Christian.

  • Hello, everyone! I’ve used random.org to draw my three winners, and they are Tamika, Jen and Sula. Well done, guys!

    And thank you again, everyone, for taking part in Queer Romance Month!

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