DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Milk (2008)

The subject in the Information Store and Wellbeing Zone this week is LGBT Week! LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and this week is an opportunity to learn about what these terms mean and we also celebrate authors, directors, actors, musicians, celebrities and political figures who openly advocate their sexuality.


One such political figure was Harvey Milk, the subject of Gus Van Sant’s 2008 film Milk. Harvey Milk, played by Sean Penn was the first openly gay, gay rights activist elected to public office in California. The film begins with archive news footage of police storming gay bars and we are shown a news piece on the assassination of Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone. Before the film has even begun, we know that Harvey Milk will die. The night before his 40th birthday was the night Milk first met his younger love Scott Smith (James Franco). The two decide to move to San Francisco and live in the largely gay community known as The Castro.  After several unsuccessful campaigns, Milk finally wins a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 which makes him the first openly gay man to be elected in to a public office.

Milk and his fellow board member Dan White (Josh Brolin) forge a complicated relationship when Milk continually opposes Whites projects. White starts to resent Milk, however invites him to his sons christening and asks him to help him with a campaign, in return offering support for Milk’s citywide gay rights ordinance. Milk backs out on helping White and White resents him even more, resulting in him battling against the gay rights ordinance. Milk works hard fighting against Proposition 6 which seeks to ban gay or lesbian teachers from working in public schools. In November 1978, Milk and his supporters beat Proposition 6 and celebrate in his office. White receives a supervisors pay rise and after supporting the proposition, he resigns his position from office. He changes his mind but Mayor Moscone denies his request to join the board again after Milk lobbies against him being reinstated.

It is White who then breaks into the government building and executes both Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk as a result of being denied his position on the Board of Supervisors for the second time.

Milk movie image

Milk was very well received by critics and Sean Penn won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Harvey Milk. The story is an important one for LGBT week as it depicts a great historic achievement for the gay community. Since Harvey Milk, many openly gay male and female politicians have worked in public office and congress. The state governor of New Jersey, Jim McGreavey, openly came out during his resignation speech in 2004 and in 2012 Tina Koteck became America’s first openly gay House speaker for Oregon.

Milk is an informative and touching story and the praise is largely directed to the performances from Sean Penn, James Franco, Josh Brolin and Emile Hirsch who bravely and flawlessly depict one of America’s most famous historical events. Beautiful and powerful it is a must see for everyone!

Further Reading in the Information Store

Milk by Gus Van Sant can be found in the DVD ZONE at 791.43M

Our display by the issue desk has a selection of books and DVD’s about LGBT and contains films, books and CD’s by famous openly gay people. The Wellbeing Zone also have an excellent display of resources!


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