Turtle Hill, Brooklyn

| October 1, 2013

Will (Brian W. Seibert) is celebrating his 30th birthday with his boyfriend Mateo (Ricardo Valdez) and a group of their closest friends.  Issues of life, love, and sex present themselves in the close-knit intimate setting.  I just wish these philosophical discussion were more interesting and unique to the characters.  Instead, these discussions do more to reinforce stereotypes than idiosyncrasies.

Seibert and Valdez also serve as the film’s screenwriters, and it’s difficult to tell if their a couple in real life, or even gay, but my guess is no on both counts given the conflicts that arise between the characters, and the fact that they have zero chemistry.  Plus, the Mateo character is super gay.  Not in a derogatory way; I’m sure there are gay men who wear kilts when they know they’re going to be near the center of attention, even when they’re Hispanic, but it feels like Mateo is trying too hard to advertise that he’s gay, and that makes him a really difficult character to relate to.

Will on the other hand doesn’t have any flamboyant over-the-top characteristics.  He’s a regular guy who’s gay and in a committed relationship with Mateo, but his homosexuality doesn’t define every single aspect of his life, but honestly still most of them as far as we can tell because gay issues are the only thing discussed for the duration.  The fact that Will is more toned down than anyone else in the movie probably plays into the fact that he’s still in the closet with his family.  His parents and his sister (Jeanne Slater) don’t know he’s gay.  That is until the sister shows up to catch Will and Mateo together.  And as bad as Mateo’s kilt is, there’s no worse stereotype in the film than this ignorant, judgmental, presumably Christian sister who can’t help but talk to her brother like he has a disease.  Then, we fill the film with characters who are flamboyant and lusty, and a bit pretentious.  Some of these other characters are more realistic and interesting than others, while some get basically no character development at all.  It’s often fine to have minor characters in a film who we rarely hear from, but Turtle Hill, Brooklyn goes out of its way to establish that this is a very close group of friends, and to me that means this film should function more like a play and make every character unique and important.

The conflicts here are few and far between.  Will and Mateo have grounds to get into some pretty big fights, but instead resort to passive aggressive comments and actions to belittle each other, which is even more boring than reading my description of it.  Mostly, the film is a love fest, where no one has a problem with anyone or if they do they’re too repressed to bring it up.  Couple that tone with the fact that we’re constantly preaching about gay marriage and equality and I start to lose interest really quickly.

Finally, there isn’t much significance to the title.  It’s the name of a neighborhood in Brooklyn, and this comes up late in the film as part of a conversation about what it means to be Turtle Hill that feels like it was thrown in to justify the title.  The significance of this location is never successfully conveyed to the audience, and the title has no bearing on anything else that happens in the film.

Available now on DVD and VOD from Believe Limited.

About the Author:

Joe Ketchum Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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