LGBT Movies: Love and Human Remains (1993)

Thomas Gibson and Ruth Marshall play bitter hipsters who break hearts and attract the attention of a serial killer. Brad Fraser’s story is crammed with so many ideas that the murders feel like an afterthought. On stage it was sexy, scary fun. On screen Love and Human Remains is antiseptic. Gibson and Marshall have been directed to play everything in a detached, monotone manner. This serves the thriller aspects of the plot but not the comedy. I decided to give it another look for Halloween.

Let’s see if I can squeeze the sprawling plot into a spoiler filled recap.

Act One: Coming Home

Scene One: Edmonton Streets
THOMAS GIBSON (Bitter gay waiter): I gave up acting. I’m moving back to Edmonton.
YUPPIE (Bitter straight civil servant): The people here are scum. But I’ve missed you.  

Scene Two: Apartment
THOMAS GIBSON: “Honey, I’m homo.” Have you eaten?
RUTH MARSHALL (A book critic. His roommate and ex): Stop. We should date people again.
THOMAS GIBSON: You stop. Love doesn’t exist.

Scene Three: Restaurant
BUSBOY (Age 17, Naïve): I loved your TV show.
THOMAS GIBSON: You need to get laid. I’ll take you to a sex worker.
PSYCHIC SEX WORKER: He’d rather be with you Thomas.
BUSBOY: Why is she psychic?
THOMAS GIBSON: So she can play “deus ex machina” in act three.

(A woman is murdered.)

Act Two: Breaking Hearts

Scene Four: Busboy’s Home
BUSBOY: Thomas you’re so interesting. But I’m not gay!
THOMAS GIBSON: Strip and bend over.
(Busboy does. Thomas Gibson walks out on him.)
BUSBOY: Son of a… That’s the same trick they played in Ernesto!

(Another woman is murdered.)

Scene Five: Love Triangle
RUTH MARSHALL: Men are the worst.
WOMAN FROM THE GYM: Then try women! (They have sex.)
RUTH MARSHALL: Nope. Bisexuality isn’t for me.
MALE BARTENDER: Then try a married man! (They have sex.)
(Male Bartender and Woman from the Gym both show up at Ruth’s apartment.)

BARTENDER & GYM: You’re seeing someone else? We could kill you!
RUTH MARSHALL: Whatever. You’re clearly red herrings. (She stress eats.)  

(More women are murdered.)

Act Three: It’s a Thriller Now

Scene Six: Edmonton Streets
THOMAS GIBSON: Yuppie, why is your car full of earrings?
YUPPIE: Isn’t everybody’s?  
THOMAS GIBSON: Psychic, is my friend a serial killer?
PSYCHIC SEX WORKER: (Scans Yuppie). Yep. Total Patrick Bateman.
YUPPIE: And I woulda gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for that meddling psychic! (Flees.)

Scene Seven: Rooftop
(Yuppie tries to kill Ruth Marshall. She escapes. Thomas Gibson chases him to the roof.)
THOMAS GIBSON: Why?
YUPPIE: I did it because I love you. Bisexual confusion has driven me mad!
THOMAS GIBSON: That’s offensive.
YUPPIE: You’re offensive. All you do is break hearts. How is that different from serial murder? 
(Yuppie jumps off the roof. Thomas Gibson breaks down crying.)
THOMAS GIBSON: This was the only thing that could cut through my icy detachment!

Epilogue: Casting Call
THOMAS GIBSON: I’m scared to audition again.
RUTH MARSHALL: We support you.
BUSBOY: Let’s hook up afterwards. What? I’m legal in Canada.

THE END

All That Remains

“I have to say that the adaptation of Love and Human Remains doesn’t work very well for me and didn’t from the time it was made. A lot of friction between the characters, and a lot of the homoerotic subtext that existed between David and Bernie, (a gay man and a straight man), was really important to the play but those ambiguities are not very easy to do on a film.”

Brad Fraser, Playwright

Brad Fraser has written over 15 plays and multiple episodes for Queer as Folk. His work has pushed boundaries, won awards and inspired protests. So why does it feel so sedate on film? The cuts don’t help. On stage the Yuppie toys with Gibson’s character, coaxing a confession of love out of him. They eventually have a threesome with the sex worker. Without this relationship their rooftop confrontation lacks bite. Gibson seems as indifferent to the guy as he does to everyone else.

Ruth Marshall’s character gets the sex scenes that Gibson is denied, but she seems annoyed by both of her partners. This diffuses the scene where they both confront her. Her lack of passion could be a source of comedy but director Denys Arcand keeps things subdued.

Brad Fraser won a Genie Award for Best Screenplay. The film received mixed reviews and vanished while the play continues to be produced. I’d recommend the film for fans of the lead actors. Others should seek out the published script instead.

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