The message is strangely mixed.
This film from Diederik Ebbinge is about the morality of gay marriage and this only becomes an issue later in the film. However, its excellent points about gay marriage are undone in some ways because the film unintentionally brings up another moral issue that clouds everything. With a slight change to the script, it would have been an exceptional film.
Fred is a widower and a devout and religiously conservative Dutch man. At the beginning of the film, he harangues a homeless man—yelling at him for trying to scam people out of their hard-earned money. So, being a good Christian, Fred decides to help reform the man and teach him a few things about responsibility and the importance of work. However, it soon becomes apparent that there is more to this stranger than Fred first thought.
Theo (and you only learn his name late in the film) is severely retarded and functions rather poorly. He seldom talks or initiates conversations and is more like a slow-witted robot—doing things Fred tells him but seeming to have little in the way of intellect. Sometimes he makes animal noises and is more interested in hanging out with farm animals than people. And, sometimes Theo puts on Fred’s deceased wife’s clothing. Despite this, both men come to care for each other over time. In fact, eventually Fred comes to love Theo and is convinced that God has answered his prayers for a new wife in the form of Theo. Eventually, Fred decides that the most moral thing to do is marry Theo—but naturally this will enrage his extremely conservative neighbors.
Through the course of the film, several more revelations occur. First, you learn Theo’s back story—as well as the fact that he has a wife (or ex-wife—this isn’t clear). She is actually supportive of the men marrying. Second, you learn why Fred was completely alone when the film began—and falling in love with Theo is extremely ironic and offers Fred a chance to grow.
I think the main idea behind Fred and Theo’s romance is interesting—a very religiously conservative guy falling for another guy. But here is the major problem with this argument in the film—Theo functions like a small child. This brings up the morality of a man marrying anyone (male or female is irrelevant) who is this low functioning. After all, can Theo even give consent or understand what marriage is?! Oddly, if Theo was just a guy of average intelligence and Fred slowly fell for him, the film would have had a powerful argument for gay marriage. As it is, the film is just creepy when you think about the inequity of their relationship, as Fred appears to be a cultured and highly intelligent man who loves classical music (the music in the film, by the way, is terrific). This also makes you wonder why he would fall for a guy for which he has practically nothing in common. An interesting experiment but one that ultimately leaves the message of the film unanswered.
Review by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer