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Were The World Mine
cast: Tanner Cohen, Wendy Robie, Judy McLane, and Nathaniel David Becker

writer and director: Tom Gustafson

93 minutes (15) 2008
widescreen ratio 16:9
TLA DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Barbara Davies
How best to describe Were The World Mine? - A whimsical, gay, coming-of-age fantasy, with musical numbers, inspired by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream? It's also an expansion of the short musical film Fairies that Tom Gustafson made back in 2003.

Timothy (Tanner Cohen) is not having much fun at his new boys-only high school. If he's not being bullied by homophobic classmates, his mother Donna is overreacting - by seeing her son's gayness as a 'problem', she proceeds to make it one. Timothy survives by daydreaming about a more colourful, magical, musical world featuring hunky sports jock Jonathon (Nathaniel David Becker), and by hanging out after school with sympathetic friends Frankie and Max, who would be a couple if only Max would make a move.

When drama teacher Ms Tebbit (Wendy Robie) casts Timothy as Puck in the school's all-male production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Spring festival, Neanderthal Coach Driskill tries to stop it. But Ms Tebbit is more than she seems and, against all the odds, gets her way. With her help, Timothy becomes a modern day Puck, finding in his script the secret formula for a magical pansy juice that, when squirted in their eyes, makes people fall in love with the next person they see. As the weekend of the festival arrives, Timothy takes full advantage of the love potion, and it's no surprise that innocents, among them Max, become collateral damage in the ensuing chaos...

Were The World Mine is an enjoyable romp of a film, its heightened reality and stylised approach to both characters and setting (would a town really be so full of such ignorant bigots, and would Timothy be allowed to wear such skin-tight jeans to school?), signalling from the start that it's going to be a little different. Even so, the first musical number comes as a surprise. You quickly become accustomed, however, to seeing loutish schoolboys transformed at the drop of a hat into graceful, skimpily-clad chorus boys, and as the songs are catchy and melodic and the male leads have terrific singing voices you even start to look forward to the songs.

Inevitably, for those familiar with Shakespeare's original, the story is predictable, and Gustafson should probably have resisted the urge to make a political point with his subplot about the changed town becoming a magnet for same sex couples, as it doesn't make sense given the rapidity with which events unfold. I would also have liked him to spell out just who or what Ms Tebbit really is (a fairy?). But it never hurts to leave your audience guessing, and once the purple pansy arrives on the scene (looking more like a dodgy magic wand than a real flower, it must be said), Gustafson manages the not inconsiderable feat of achieving the same dreamlike tone as the Bard. Unfortunately his modern-day 'lovers' come across as sex-crazed stalkers at times, and he risks straining our suspension of disbelief to breaking point when he makes them start talking in Shakespearean prose.

Zelda Williams (House Of D), and Ricky Goldman, are wasted on the one-note characters of Frankie and Max. But Tanner Cohen (The Life Before Her Eyes), and Nathaniel David Becker, make an engaging, handsome pair of leads, and Broadway star Judy McLane manages to give the cardboard role of Timothy's mother an added dimension. As for Wendy Robie (Twin Peaks, The People Under The Stairs), the only one of the Fairies cast to make the transition to the expanded version, her performance is both strange and arresting, and her drama teacher's Cheshire Cat smile remains in the memory long after the film is over.

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