Based on Annie Proulx's 1997 short story, "Brokeback Mountain" tells the tale of Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger), a somewhat sullen and withdrawn Texas ranch-hand, and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), a happy-go-lucky extroverted rodeo cowboy, who both seek summer employment in 1963 for a Wyoming rancher (Randy Quaid). While caring for his sheep herd on Brokeback Mountain, the two lonely and isolated men become involved in an intense sexual relationship. Upon completing the job, the two men part ways and settle into more conventional married lives. However, in the years that follow, they find they can't forget each other. During the course of the film, Ennis and Jack desperately try to keep their bond alive by meeting annually and secretly from their respective families.
While the movie depicts with sensitivity and sympathy the different ways their forbidden love affects both their spouses and their image of themselves as men, "Brokeback Mountain" doesn't delve deeply enough into what pulls these two men together as lovers. Ang Lee instead enshrines them in the same glow of purity as he does the mountain landscapes in which they meet. Since their love affair is treated so earnestly, Gyllenhaal and Ledger can't fully develop or deepen their roles. Only Anne Hathaway, as the rodeo queen who marries Jack, cuts loose with some welcome sass. Randy Quaid, meanwhile, provides some sly humor as a sheep rancher who doesn't get the wool pulled over his eyes. Starring Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Linda Cardellini, Michelle Williams and Randy Quaid. Directed by Ang Lee. Written by Larry McMurtry and Dianna Ossana. Produced by Diana Ossana and James Schamus. A Focus release. Drama. Rated R for sexuality, nudity, language and some violence. Running time: 133 min