It’s been awhile since I’ve seen and embraced a film as earnest and as sincere as Were The World Mine. Maybe it was because I was in an almost sold-out auditorium filled with enthusiastic reelout film festival patrons, or perhaps it was because it was already cold enough outside, but Were The World Mine warmed my cynical little heart—if only for one evening.
Imagine: a film that marries High School Musical and its gushing, sweet catchiness,with John Cameron Mitchell’s 2001 gender-bent cult classic Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
Were The World Mine is set in a modern day all-boys school where the rugby players rule the school. In this midst is misfit Timothy, played by relative unknown Tanner Cohen. Timothy is out of the closet in a very homophobic environment but that’s just the beginning of his problems. His father has left his mother and him, his mother is struggling to find work and accept her son and he’s in love with the star rugby player who is in the throes of a heterosexual relationship. Not to mention that no one in his town or school seems to be accepting of someone who identifies as queer.
Enter Timothy’s two accepting friends—and extremely musical—Max and Frankie. Frankie is a girl with spunk who’s always singing and never seen without her guitar and Max is her goofy pseudo-boyfriend. These characters would have no problem fitting into the latest Disney item for consumption, but there’s something about the characters’ sexual ambiguity and honest love for their friend that makes them a lot more loveable and interesting.
Amongst Timothy’s gaggle of non-hating friends is the eccentric and downright unbelievable English teacher Ms. Tebbit, played by Wendy Robie of Twin Peaks fame. It’s Ms. Tebbit who sets the film in motion by way of her production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This shot at theatre brings Timothy out of his shell and closer than ever to his crush. Playing Puck, Timothy struggles to find the meaning in the text. But after some hard work, he cracks the code and things click for him. He’s got a firm grasp on the text and impulsively decides to create the love potion that Puck creates in the play. Did I mention this scene is also set to song?
After accidentally squirting his love potion into the eye of best friend Max, he realizes his potion truly does work. This revelation sets Timothy off and he has soon made the whole world turn gay. No longer is his gym teacher a raging bigot, but a reformed homosexual in love with the principal of the school. No longer is Timmy’s crush fawning over his girlfriend; instead he’s got his hands all over Timothy. This world is perfect for our lead, but we know it can’t stay like this for long. I won’t ruin the end for you, but let’s just say any tears you shed will come from laughter.
Were The World Mine was made on a shoestring budget and it’s sometimes painfully obvious. Some of the dialogue is a bit ridiculous, some of the actors are very novice and yes, the problem of homophobia is essentially “solved” at the end of the film. But the film gets by on its charm.
Gustafson, who based the film on his award-winning short film “Fairies,” isn’t afraid to let his love for the project shine through. Everyone involved in the film is fully committed and eager. You won’t leave the cinema asking yourself what the director could have done better, but rather why a film as well-intentioned and imaginative as Were The World Mine didn’t have the budget of the latest High School Musical. I assure you, it’s not because lead Tanner Cohen isn’t as cute as Zac Efron.
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