Since the early aughts, Focus Features has led the way in prestige queer storytelling with Oscar nominees including Brokeback Mountain, Milk, and The Kids Are All Right as well as with beloved indies like My Summer of Love, Pariah, and Kajillionaire. The studio behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Atonement, Lost in Translation, and Harriet pays homage to thoughtful and diverse stories with a new sizzle reel and the announcement that several of its titles will play at AMC Theatres for “Focus 20” week beginning April 29. Among the modern classic films that will screen are Brokeback Mountain, Harriet, and Downton Abbey.
“I think we’re twelve years on from Milk coming out and the fact that I can say I still feel like a part of the Focus family is remarkable,” Oscar-winning Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black tells The Advocate. “Each Pride Season, I still hear from Focus, and there are still events that are built around Milk, the movie, the man, the story, and the fact that Focus has stayed engaged in all that, sees value in all of that and has continued to support us as filmmakers and the film even 12 years later. That says a lot about the familial nature at Focus. And frankly what more could you ask for?”
Watch the Focus sizzle reel, featuring several queer films, below, followed by a look back at the studio’s LGBTQ+ films through stills. For more viewing, check out the studio’s dedicated hub on Peacock and several films that are available to rent on Amazon Prime Video, Apple, and more.
The film from acclaimed director Pawel Pawlikowski (Ida, Cold War), My Summer of Love stars Natalie Press as Mona and Emily Blunt (in her first film) as Tamsin, teen girls from separate worlds whose obsessive friendship builds to an intense dénouement. Blunt’s enigmatic and lonely rich girl provides respite, excitement and first love for Mona, who seeks to break free from the monotonous and oppressive day-to-day living with her born-again recovering alcoholic brother, Phil (Paddy Considine).
The “gay cowboy movie” that predated Jane Campion’s 2021 critical favorite The Power of the Dog, Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including one for Best Picture (it lost to Crash). Based on Annie Proulx’s short story, the film, set in 1963, tells the story of sheep herders Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis (Heath Ledger), who fall in love out on the range. It’s a tender and heartrending tale that investigates the pressures of masculinity at the time and of a love that was forced to remain out of sight. Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams costarred as Jack’s and Ennis’s wives (respectively).
Critics went wild for Lisa Cholodenko’s dramedy The Kids Are All Right, starring Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as a married couple with teen kids (played by Josh Hutcherson and Mia Wasikowska) who meet their sperm donor, Paul (Mark Ruffalo). Things get messy when Jules (Moore) and Paul engage in an affair, threatening to upend her marriage. The film was director Cholodenko’s third queer-themed feature following High Art and Laurel Canyon. Cholodenko is pictured behind the scenes with Bening and Moore.
Gay screenwriter Dustin Lance Black won an Oscar for his screenplay about slain gay civil rights activist and politician Harvey Milk. Directed by Gus Van Sant, the film starred Sean Penn in the titular role, Emile Hirsch as Milk’s protégé Cleve Jones, Allison Pill as activist Anne Kronenberg, and Victor Garber as San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, who was slain with Milk at San Francisco City Hall in 1978 by Dan White (Josh Brolin). James Franco and Diego Luna played Milk’s partners, Scott Smith and Jack Lira (respectively).
“Focus Features was an intrepid collaborator in making Milk. They pushed the film to glory in the 2008 Oscar campaign, which was exciting to be a part of,” Van Sant tells The Advocate.
From 20th Century Women director Mike Mills, Beginners stars Ewan McGregor as Oliver and Christopher Plummer as his father, Hal. The film focuses on the father and son relationship following the death of Oliver’s mother from cancer and Hal’s subsequent coming-out. ER’s Goran Višnjić plays Hal’s love interest. Plummer won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the film.
In Pariah, from Mudbound director Dee Rees, Brooklyn teen Alike (Adepero Oduye) grapples with queer identity growing up in a hyper-religious home. It's the feature version of Rees’s short that made the festival rounds a few years prior. South of Nowhere’s Aasha Davis plays Alike’s crush Bina while Kim Wayans plays her controlling mother.
The horrors of conversion therapy are at the core of Boy Erased, based on Garrard Conley’s memoir. Lucas Hedges plays Jared, a young gay man who’s sent to abusive conversion therapy to cure him of his queerness. Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe plays his parents, who must come to terms to the life they’ve made for their son, while Joel Edgerton plays the head of the conversion therapy program. The film costars Joe Alwyn as well as queer actors Troye Sivan and Xavier Dolan.
Out actor Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld) stars as Old Dolio, a first-of-her-kind character, in Miranda July’s quirky film Kajillionaire, about a family of grifters. Acting legends Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger star as Old Dolio’s parents, while Gina Rodriguez plays Melanie, the first person to break through Old Dolio’s tough exterior and show her some love and tenderness.