BEFORE YOU KNOW IT
Before You Know It
This touching and heartfelt documentary about the ageing process and the effects it has had on three different gay men all now over sixty- the oldest is a sprightly seventy six- looks at an awkward subject in a non-judgmental way offering a new perspective on a process which affects everyone. Directed by P.J. Raval who affords his three ‘stars’- Dennis, Ty and Robert- equal billing and screen time allows each to explain what made them the people they are today and how happy/unhappy they are at the way their lives have panned out.
Of the three Dennis is the one which probably elicits the most sympathy. Unable, or unwilling, to come out until late in his life- he waited until after his wife’s death before admitting his true orientation- his story is the most touching and also the most tragic. Despite this he also shows the most bravery by relocating to another state and living his life exactly as he chooses, even going as far as travelling solo on a gay cruise and dressing in drag to fulfil his true desires. Ignored by his family he has no network of support around him and his loneliness is palpable. He and the audience are aware that this would probably not be the case if he had been open about his sexuality from a younger age.
Such accusations cannot be levelled at the other two subjects of this film. Robert in particular flaunts his sexuality and revels in the younger company or waifs and strays which make up his surrogate family. Such measures were necessary after his natural kin disowned him when he came out and despite a making up at some later point, the feeling persists that his friends now fulfil the role of family for him in a way the traditional unit just could not.
The third character Ty is also confident in his sexuality and of the three the only one in a committed relationship. So committed is he to his partner that talks of marriage perpetuates and permeates most of his discussions on film. The contrast between the latter two and Dennis could not be more pronounced as both have a network of support around them that only makes Dennis’s solitude even more apparent and sad.
Paval does a great job in drawing out the vastly different life stories of these three men and how they have approached old age. It is a worthwhile subject which is usually ignored but certainly not one that should be. If I have one criticism it is that it could have done with a little more editing as at the end it feels a little drawn out and just when you think you have reached the concluding speeches of the three subjects they each reappear to deliver their closing segment proper. It is a small criticism however as all three-in particular Dennis- have probably spent a large part of their lives not being listened to so making the most of the time allotted to them is perhaps understandable.