In this whimsical, musical re-imagining of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, bullied gay high school student Timothy (Tanner Cohen) stumbles upon the recipe for the love potion from Shakespeare’s play and exacts revenge on his closed-minded town by turning everyone queer —including the boy of his dreams, Jonathan (Nathaniel David Becker), the captain of the rugby team.
As in the original, Were the World Mine’s forced pairings go horribly awry and Timothy soon has to undo the enchantment at the risk of losing the boy he’s finally gotten to love him.
It’s an impressive debut feature from writer-director Thomas Gustafson, who adapted the film from his award-winning short, Fairies. While the film is clearly made with limited funds, and the transfer from super16 film leaves some scenes drowning in murk, Gustafson wrings drama and energy from every scene.
Take an early scene where Timothy auditions for his school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His rendition of Puck’s “We fairies” speech —overheard by Jonathan and the increasingly annoyed rugby team —is both a tingling, edge-of-your-seat scene and a fantastic display of the film’s blending of Shakespeare’s words with Broadway-style production.
Were the World Mine’s talented young stars also boast impressive pipes that showcase the film’s impressive score, which edits Shakespeare’s words together with an obvious joy for double-entendre (the aforementioned “We fairies” speech being but the best example). The several musical scenes pulled from Timothy’s daydreams about Jonathan are imaginative and compelling, infused with a magical realism.
Where the film stumbles a bit is in the portrayals of some of the town’s notorious adult homophobes, including Timothy’s mother Donna (Judy McLane), her door-to-door-cosmetics-selling boss Nora (Jill Larson), and the school principal (David Darlow). All three suffer from a tendency toward villainous behaviour you expect of moustache-twirling cartoon baddies.
When they receive their comeuppances, it’s less gratifying than it is a relief that we can count on them having less screen space in the film.
Nevertheless, when the film focuses on the internecine conflicts of the student body and the tangled webs of youthful lust and love —romantic or chemical —Were the World Mine packs a heartfelt punch to the gut of anyone who has loved from afar, loved and lost, and even those lucky few whose teenage love lives were sweet.
The Bard would have approved.