Pit Stop: A Haunting Portrait of Gay Male Longing

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pit stop By David-Elijah Nahmod, Special to PQ Monthly "Pit Stop," Yen Tan's lovely new film, paints a haunting portrait of how many gay men live, particularly in small towns. The dialogue-heavy film moves slowly, which greatly works to its advantage. As the story progresses, viewers get to know who each character is. The film offers a peek inside their hearts and souls. Gabe (Bill Heck) is living with his ex-wife, with whom he's raising a daughter. He's recently come out. She's dating, but still loves him. Ernesto (Marcus DeAnda) is in the process of breaking up with his much younger boyfriend. He's also acting as a surrogate family member for his previous ex, who lies in a coma--the comatose man has been abandoned by family and by his current boyfriend. "Pit Stop" moves back and forth between the day-to-day lives of these very lonely men, both of whom painfully yearn for Mr. Right. At first it seems as though their stories are unconnected. Fate, we learn late in the film, does have  something in store for Gabe and Ernesto. Bill Heck and Marcus DeAnda are superb as the leads, expertly conveying the aching loneliness of gay male life in small town Texas. The quiet, conservative little hamlet they call home is a place where coming out is not an option. These are places when two men out on a date end their evening by shaking hands. It's all the surrounding community will allow them to do. "There was a time when I had to drive back and forth between Dallas and Houston," director Yen Tan said to PQ. "That was when I started to pay attention to the small towns in between the cities. Once I realized there were gay people in these areas, I wondered about their lives. I corresponded with a few of them online and there were elements in their stories that really resonated with me. It was easy to come up with an idea at that point." The auteur does not consider sexual orientation when casting roles. "In our case, we just wanted the best actors for the roles," he said. "Their orientations were secondary, and this was something I wasn't even aware of until they were cast and I got to know them better through the shoot." Tan has had a life long love affair with the movies. "I was born in Malaysia and now live in Austin, Texas," he said. "I'm also a graphic designer with a specialty in film branding and posters. I loved watching films from a very young age, but never considered it as a career until after I graduated from college. I gravitate towards cinema that feels personal and prompts me to look within myself. I look for the same qualities when I review a project." An impressive aspect of Pit Stop is how well developed the secondary characters are. When Gabe's ex-wife Shannon (Amy Seimetz) goes out on a date with a co-worker, the audience gets to go along with her. Tan allows us to see how hard it's been for her to let go of the man she loves and to connect with someone new. When Gabe tries dating, it's a disaster. His date is desperate, and tries too hard. As they talk, we learn that the intolerant environment in which they live is the root cause of that desperation. The film digs deep into Ernesto's heart, as he's betrayed by two lovers in a row. One of them turns out to be not quite as villainous as it first appeared. Tan's script focuses on the pain both ex-lovers feel. "Pit Stop" is a dark, intense film that will remind viewers how alike we as people are. "Pit Stop" is now available on DVD via Wolfe Video.