What is the meaning of a soul mate? Is there no love if there is no sex? How does someone’s sexual identity affect their loneliness? These are the questions that ‘Straight Up’ (2019) explores in the story of Todd and Rory. The film is a heart-warming tale of two people with different sexual affiliations and focuses on the need of finding someone that they can connect with. Its ending is as unlikely as its story and makes us wonder if two people could actually fall in love in such a way? If you haven’t seen the film yet, bookmark this article for later. SPOILERS AHEAD
‘Straight Up’ follows the story of two people trying to find a way out of their loneliness. Todd has failed to form any romantic connections and starts to wonder if he might be bisexual as opposed to his current status of homosexuality. Rory is a struggling actress who doesn’t have any friends. She leaves messages on the phone for her mother, who is currently on a different continent. They meet each other in the library and hit it off immediately. Soon enough, they find themselves in a relationship, but the situation changes when Rory discovers Todd’s experimentations with himself.
After an awkward Christmas party with Todd’s friends, Rory starts to question their arrangement of not having sex. Another failed audition makes her reconsider her life decisions and she decides to move back to Seattle. Todd doesn’t take it very well and goes back to therapy to find out where he might have gone wrong about himself and the exact nature of his sexuality. Eventually, he circles back to Rory and finds her to be his soulmate, no matter what sort of relationship they have.
Meanwhile, Rory tries to fit into her new life in Seattle. She struggles to make friends and finds herself back in the same place where she had been before meeting Todd. A prospect presents itself when a colleague shows interest, but it doesn’t go anywhere. One day, out of the blue, Todd shows up outside her workplace and asks her to come back to him. With the grand gesture of dancers in the background, he asks her hand in marriage, but she refuses. Todd, then, breaks into several versions of “Baby, if you love me, won’t you just give me a smile?” We see Rory struggling to keep herself from smiling, and in the end, just when we see a flicker of it, the scene cuts to black.
Do Rory and Todd get together?
‘Straight Up’ begins with Todd’s questions about his sexuality. Before the events of the film, he had considered himself gay, but now, he is starting to wonder if that was something that he had conditioned himself to believe without exploring other avenues. The need to get this label on himself manifests in the OCD of Todd which requires him to have everything neat and clean and in order. Not having this crucial knowledge about himself nags at him and makes him more restless in a life that already feels lonely. The thing that disturbs him the most is the idea of never quite finding someone who completes him. With all of his friends being sure of who they are and what they want, Todd feels that he is left behind because he lacks control of his life, which is what leads him to explore heterosexuality, just to see if it would bring some balance back to him.
If there was any question about Todd’s gayness, it is cleared up as his relationship with Rory progresses. Despite forming a deep emotional bond with her, the nature of their relationship remains asexual. Eventually, they decide that sex isn’t very essential for them, and they accept each other as is. However, the loneliness that they had driven away after meeting each other starts creeping up again when Rory realizes that she wants more. This is also when, as the audience, we start wondering if they had ever been right for each other. We have been conditioned to not believe in sexless intimacy, and that’s something that Rory struggles with as well.
Todd, on the other hand, has finally found peace. He is not searching for labels anymore. He has stopped wondering just how gay he is, and he sees himself spending the rest of his life with Rory. Even when Ryder kisses him, to show him that he has shut himself inside a closet that he doesn’t want to come out of, Todd doesn’t fall for it. He is content in whatever he has with Rory and doesn’t need anything beyond it. So, when Rory decides to go away to Seattle, he finds it hard to imagine why she has suddenly changed her mind.
At the end, when Todd refuses to let her go, they find a middle ground, where they both get what they want. Previously, Todd had suggested being in an open relationship, to outsource the only thing that was missing from their otherwise perfect relationship. As for the sexuality question, Todd is in no rush to find out any answers. He could be gay, he could be bi, he could also be asexual.
There is still a lot that he can explore about himself, and his current opinions about himself could very well change. The same happened with Rory. First, she thought she could live without sex, but then she discovered that it wasn’t as easy to let go for her as it was Todd. Who’s to say he won’t change his mind as well? Sexual fluidity might always leave a question on the nature of their relationship, but the one thing that it doesn’t change is the fact that they love each other.
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