When I read the review in Rotten Tomatoes I thought it’s one of those stories about gay rights. I’ve been into documentaries these past few years, as more and more of them are creatively produced by your average Joes with extraordinary messages. I just thought that this movie would enrich me the way And The Band Played On did more than a decade ago. I have even presumed, mistakenly, that the title ‘Bridegroom’ refers to the gay couple, who would like to be married eventually.
I was wrong. The doc is a moving tribute to a soulmate. A lifelong partner that might have grown old together and become doting grandparents. Just like any other ordinary couple. Maybe even better than my parents – they’re still married, 40 years and counting, even as my father is getting senile – and far better off than those divorced people or single mothers/fathers. ‘Bridegroom’ is a love story, I wish I would meet a normal guy, someday, who adores me like Tom Bridegroom did to Shane Bitney Crone and think the world of me.
The crime documented in the movie here is ignorance, and inflated egos. Two-thirds of the movie shows how the happy couple grew up in different families, and how they finally met 6 years before Tom died in a freak accident. We learned Tom fell down from a building and rushed into hospital. The love of his life, Shane, was not by his side – Tom was taking picture of a friend when the accident happened – but it’s as if he’s being punished for the accident. In a blink of an eye, as Shane narrated, their relationship became non-existent in the eyes of Tom’s family. He was even denied by the hospital nurses to see Tom’s body at first, but at the last minute a kind soul managed to sneak him in so he can say his goodbye.
Tom’s mother flew to California as soon as she was informed. However, she went as far as taking all Tom’s belonging, including his personal computer that’s shared with Shane, and cleaned up their apartment while Shane was watching. Tom’s dad informed Shane that he was not welcomed in Tom’s funeral, and the family buried Tom in a plot between his mom’s and dad’s reserved plots. Though I can’t imagine how heart-wrenching to be treated like that, Shane managed to invite his and Tom’s friends and family for a memorial in California, without forgetting to invite Tom’s parents and putting up Tom’s family pictures in the memorial.
The essence of the documentary lies in the dynamic of two different families. Shane’s family accepted his unique characters early on – he’s been bullied by his peers throughout high school – but his mom and entire family supported him. Tom’s family is a typical Midwestern Christian one and it seems like he grew up in two different worlds – masculine sport-loving military-school graduate and a gifted creative singer and artist all the same. His family never accepted Tom’s life after graduation, although his mom did spend some time together with him and Shane. The movie taught me what I already knew: it’s hard for people, even for a Christian like me, to accept others just as they are. Christians are taught to ‘do unto others as you would have them do.’ What a wonderful life I would have if when I wake up tomorrow I wouldn’t need to worry about how I look to other people. How good life is if people can see past his or her ethnicity, academic degrees, religion or caste.
[My family is a perfect example of how two cultures collide. My brothers did not marry into foreigners – they’re all married to women born and bred in Indonesia – yet we are like aliens to these in-laws. Each of my mom’s daughter-in-law, from the day they joined my family, never fail to make sure that ours is beneath theirs. Never mind that my mom paid for the wedding, helped paying out their honeymoon trips, family health insurance, even breakfast, lunch and dinner if they happen to stand within proximity to mom’s purse. I’m sorry to say that my brothers made it even worse – as if they are denouncing their own because the in-laws are much better (to be served.)
I’ve had my peace after seeing this documentary. I’ve told my mom too, that someday we will leave this world by ourselves. When we mourn others because they’ve gone on before us, we have to learn to let them go. When we mourn the severed relationship with our loved ones, we have to learn to treasure the happy memories but embrace the future, as in time, everything will become a memory.
I’m still mourning how I lost my two brothers; one passed away this year, the other one left us high and dry. I could not imagine the situation my mom has to endure facing these losses; they are always their little boys after all. In time, I’ll have to remind her.. in time. Tom’s parents insisted in burying him between their reserved plots but failed to see that Tom does not belong to them anymore. Just as well, no matter how hard the in-laws want to cut out the relationship between my mom and his boys, they still belong to my mom. They would learn, now that they are mothers to boys, that whatever they’ve done to us, their boys would do to them as well..]