Human beings, as a species, are defined by struggle – biological, cultural, societal, and personal; throughout a single life, there’s a myriad of forces pushing and pulling through every man, woman, and child as they travel down a journey of self-identity and discovery. In today’s landscape, our spectrum has shifted from race to gender identity, and Arthur Allen’s film Winning Dad is another reminder that despite whatever legal victories the gay culture may achieve, there’s still a lot of work to be done at home.
Here is a coming out story that’s not about a young man emerging from the closet, but rather a middle-aged man escaping the shadow of ingrained prejudice that threatens to derail his gay son’s life.
Making the most of the some of the stunning landscapes that surround Seattle, Allen delivers a movie that has some quiet meditative moments, contrasting perfectly with the raw emotion that the characters have to grapple with as they attempt to navigate their way through the relationships that they are struggling to hold together.
One of the better strengths of the film is its cast. Street and Allen create a believable dynamic as the opposites-attract boyfriends, Sigars gets the balance just right as the homophobic father forced to confront his fears, and Ellen McLain (as Colby’s mother Lisa) and Megan Jackson (as Colby’s sister Jamie) help to build the emotional tension of the piece.
Winning Dad isn’t presented as a comedy, even though it has some funny moments. Rather, here’s a drama that takes viewers on a hike of a very different sort: along a Via Dolorosa of strained relationships and conflicted convictions. The result is a smartly crafted story about a father and son, or rather a father and two sons: one of them biological, the other a son by marriage if Mike can learn to pull his disapproval back enough to let Colby breathe and mature enough that he becomes a man in his own right. Until then, Mike’s intransigence risks stunting Corey’s emotional growth.
Winning Dad is also a movie that reflects in many ways the changing experience of gay men, and how developments such as marriage equality are shaping relationships and family dynamics. This isn’t a perfect film by any means, but one that admirably uses its available resources without over-selling the moral heart of the piece.