Two young cowboys take a harsh summer job. They have to take care of a herd of sheep up in the mountains without getting in contact with other people for a month. Living alone in nature, under harsh conditions, they become close friends and eventually lovers. When the summer job ends they part and get married. They, however, remain in touch and arrange fishing-trips in order to be able to see each other and make love. As the years go by their reunions are becoming harder and harder to organize and their secret leaks out.
The film is well thought a directed. The scenery plays its own part to the film. Both actors play exquisitely. Small facial expressions create whole moods. Few words are aired but their feelings are obvious.
Only a non American director would dare to go against the strong tradition of the western. In American Culture West was always considered as a place of harsh but beautiful environment where “real” men can battle against nature and themselves in order to prove their manhood. A cowboy had all the paraphernalia a tough man needs. He is a loner, crude partly civilized, a man carrying always the phallic symbol, his riffle, or his gun. In Ang Lee’s film irony runs strong for those who know the stereotypes of a typical American Western. The beautiful and harsh environment testing the men is present through-out the film. The men are loners, typical cowboys with their riffles and beans. Beside their toughness they are homosexuals. In
Homosexuality is still a sensitive matter. Lee tries to handle it with care. He declares that homosexuality can be based on love, on a real sentimental connection. It is not only a sexual passion. On the other hand it is presented as a curse. As if being a homosexual refrains someone form functioning as a normal member of society. In the end the film manages make he spectators sympathize with the heroes. In the same time, though, I think that it takes away some of the respect that is due to these people. We might feel sorry for them, but can we appreciate them?