Saturday, May 19, 2012


Written and Directed by Richard LeMay
Starring Ryan Vigilant, Benjamin Weaver, Karmine Alers and S. Lue McWilliams

If you’re the type of person who likes your movies melancholic and melodramatic, than NAKED AS WE CAME is the movie for you. This is not to say that the film doesn’t satisfy on these levels, but rather that you have to be prepared to dive into a particular mood for the entirety of the film. If you are properly armed to handle the onslaught of yelling and screaming in this family drama, then you may actually leave in tears. With films like this one, that is the point.

Elliot and Laura (Ryan Vigilant and Karmine Alers) are hardly model children. They run the family laundry business in New York City like dutiful offspring, but they bear so much resentment toward their deceased father for saddling them with this responsibility (let alone destroying their family) and their still living mother for, well, just being a bad mother to them while they were growing up. When they return home for the first time in over a year to insist that their aging mother (played with great fervor by S. Lue McWilliams) return with them to live out the rest of her years, they find that she barely has days left to live. To further aggravate the situation, which is truly unnecessary with these three high strung characters, the mother has a live-in houseguest that no one can quite figure out (Benjamin Weaver).

I often did not understand why everyone in NAKED AS WE CAME felt the need to yell all the time. Sometimes I laughed out loud at how ridiculous they were all being but other times, I was unexpectedly punched in the stomach by how honest they were being. And while it may feel claustrophobic at times to be trapped with this much drama, I came out the other side feeling a little less burdened and little more learned.

Black Sheep was also fortunate enough to interview the film's director during the festival and that goes a little something like this ...

An interview with NAKED AS WE CAME writer/director, Richard LeMay

Richard LeMay wears many a hat, from producer to writer and director, depending on the day. This weekend he is in Toronto for the Inside Out LGBT 2012 Film Festival and wearing all his hats at once to present his latest film, NAKED AS WE CAME. Given how much responsibility that has to come with, LeMay is as cool as can be when we chat just hours before his film screens.

“I really didn’t know what I was doing at first,” LeMay explains when I ask how he managed to begin building his impressive independent resume. “I didn’t go to film school. I just started making movies.” This does not always bode well for the finished product but LeMay credits the LGBT audience for providing him with the chance to develop his craft. “When it comes to this market, there is always a need for content. This is not necessarily a good thing because my first couple of movies weren’t very good.”

LeMay himself
His latest, NAKED AS WE CAME, is quite good. It still reads like an independent feature made by an untrained filmmaker but the emotion is quite palpable and effective, proving LeMay’s strength with character and story. This particular story finds a brother and sister (Ryan Vigilant and Karmine Alers) returning home to find out about and subsequently deal with their mother’s (S. Lue McWilliams) imminent death. I found it to be quite depressing but LeMay sees it quite differently.

“I’ve always thought of it as a funny movie,” he begins. “When you see it alone in your living room, its a very different experience from seeing it with a crowd of people.” He’s probably right considering alone in my living room is exactly how I saw it.

LeMay drew from experiences with his friends for the inspiration behind NAKED AS WE CAME. In one year, seven of his closer friends lost loved one’s and one in particular, actually had the chance to say goodbye before it happened. “It is one of the most painful things one can go through but it is also an incredible gift because not everyone gets the opportunity.” It is not directly about any one experience but LeMay still tried to be as honest as he could be. “I just tried to be as truthful to where I thought it could go.”

LeMay, second from right, on Naked as We Came set
LeMay and I chat a bit about the present and future state of gay cinema before I let him go to experience the glorious Toronto weather. Something he says about a question he had a recent screening though I think best captures where the genre is heading. “This one guy commented that the film has a very European ending and that he wishes it could have been a happy one instead. For me, it is a happy ending though. These characters are not succumbing to their patterns; they’re breaking them.”

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