Latter Days is a 2003 American romantic drama film about a gay relationship between a closeted Mormon missionary and his openly gay neighbor. The film was written and directed by C. Jay Cox. It stars Steve Sandvoss as the missionary, Aaron, and Wes Ramsey as the neighbor, Christian. Joseph Gordon-Levitt appears as Elder Ryder, and Rebekah Johnson as Julie Taylor. Mary Kay Place, Amber Benson and Jacqueline Bisset have supporting roles. Latter Days premiered at the Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival on July 10, 2003 and was released in various states of USA over the next 12 months. Later the film was released in a few other countries and shown at several gay film festivals. It was the first film to portray openly the clash between the principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and homosexuality, and its exhibition in some U.S. states was controversial. Various religious groups demanded that the film be withdrawn from theaters and video stores under boycott threats. The film was met with mixed reactions from film critics, but was popular with most film festival attendees.
It’s not Angels in America, but Latter Days takes a stab at covering some of the same ground, namely what happens when a closet-case Mormon finally decides to let his freak flag fly and suffers the confusion and uncertainty (not to mention the damnation) that inevitably follows.
Call it fate (or call it the grinding gears of C. Jay Cox’s screenplay) that plops a quartet of young Mormon missionaries including the tormented Aaron (Steve Sandvoss) into the LA apartment complex where shallow West Hollywood superstud and overall gay Adonis Christian (Wesley A. Ramsey) just happens to live across the way. Christian, his roommate Julie (Rebekah Johnson), and the other waiters at the restaurant where they work are highly amused by these uptight guys in white shirts and ties who seem to have landed from another planet. A bet is quickly made (grind, grind goes the screenplay): If Christian can bed a Mormon and snag his ‘sacred underwear,’ he’ll win $50. It shouldn’t be tough for a sexually magnetic guy who seems to have left a trail of satisfied one-night-stands from Santa Monica to San Bernardino.
Slipping into a tight tank top and short shorts, Christian immediately sets his sights on Aaron, the newest and youngest of the group, and begins a flirtation in the laundry room and during a game of shirts and skins hoops. Luckily, Aaron seems more than ready to experiment. No sooner has Christian stripped down to his black jock strap so Aaron can help him patch up a cut on his leg than Aaron lays his head down on Christian’s tanned and hairless chest.
The bet doesn’t end there, however. The first kiss between Christian and Aaron happens later and is witnessed by Aaron’s Mormon friends, and that means trouble. Aaron is quickly whisked away and sent back to his family in Idaho, and Christian is left alone to wonder about some new feelings. Is this what guilt feels like? Is this emptiness? Is this love? Full of remorse, Christian even chases Aaron to the Salt Lake City airport, but after a night of hotel sex (‘I’m going to hell anyway,’ says Aaron. ‘I may as well take the scenic route.’), Aaron disappears, and Christian feels worse.
Feeling a need to atone for his sin, Christian begins delivering meals to homebound AIDS victims. In one of the film’s few truly honest moments, AIDS sufferer Keith (Erik Palladino) asks Christian what a ‘pretty boy’ like him is doing delivering meals. You must be punishing yourself for something, Keith suggests, and Christian, who’s searching his soul for the first time in his life, can’t disagree.
In a story such as this, lovers torn asunder will have to reconnect, but not for a while. While Aaron becomes persona non grata, even to his own mother (Mary Kay Place), Christian tries to hunt him down. Meanwhile, in a highly improbable and unrelated event, roommate Julie becomes an overnight singing sensation complete with her own hot music video. Coincidences begin to pile up thick and fast, and screenwriter Cox is so aware of them that he even has the maternal restaurant owner Lila (Jacqueline Bisset, gorgeous as always) opine that ‘I don’t believe in coincidences… I believe in miracles.’ It’s a nice sentiment but a huge screenwriting copout.
And how strange and funny that the characters discuss angels and Cox (who was raised in a Mormon family, by the way) even puts a woman wearing a set of angel wings on a bus stop bench. You’d think the last thing he’d want to do is remind the audience of the power and sweep of Angels in America.
The DVD adds deleted scenes, music videos, commentary from Cox, Ramsey, and Sandovoss, and a short film from Cox.