Caarey Mulligan in "Maestro" (left) and Julianne Moore in "Far From Heaven" Source: EDGE composite image

Queering Cinema: Celebrating the Iconic 'Beards' Who Have Broken Our Hearts on Screen

Jake Myers READ TIME: 7 MIN.

Time and time again, we've re-lived our plight on screen: the scared, confused, and often tortured gay man muddling his way through a less than welcoming world.

Films like "Philadelphia," "Moonlight," " Call Me By Your Name," and director Andrew Haigh's recent tear-jerker, "All of Us Strangers," have all beautifully captured the emotions around feeling ashamed, being rejected, silently yearning for our true loves, and the fear of embracing our true selves. In TV, we've also seen portrayal after portrayal of the gay man's arc, from "Queer as Folk," to "Looking," to "It's a Sin."

But as we watch gay people struggling to find safety, acceptance, and a life without shame, it would be impossible to not showcase collateral damage left in the wake of their path towards finding freedom.

The biggest casualties? The long-suffering women that have been dragged along for the ride as our protagonists seek ways to shield their true identities, and hide behind facades. Some have the rug pulled out from under them suddenly, while others simply endure a gradual "knowing" as their men find intimacy in the muscular arms of their secret lovers. Sometimes intentionally used as beards, other times the unsuspecting shrapnel left discarded after a character's life explodes, these tragic characters shine just as bright as their secretly gay lovers.

In light of the recent heartbreaking Awards darlings like "Maestro" and "Fellow Travelers," we're ready to give these characters their due, along with the actresses who brilliantly play them with heartbreaking subtlety. To honor their plight, and the predicament of so many real-life women who've also experienced this devastation, we've featured the five most powerful of these gut-wrenching performances from the last several decades.

Check out our list...if your heart can handle it.

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers for a number of the films mentioned on this list.

Carey Mulligan in "Maestro"

In what some might consider a master class in exhibiting repression and subverted needs, Carey Mulligan steals the film as Leonard Bernstein's wife, Felicia. In fact, the film movie is more about her arc, and the relationship she has with Lenny (played by Bradley Cooper), than about Bernstein's creative career. Cooper, who directed the film, thankfully gets that, keeping the camera on a tight shot of her face as she delivers a poignant, Oscar-worthy speech (we're thrilled for her nomination!) towards the end of the film, after finally acknowledging her needs.

It's the speech of a woman who has accepted her fate, but is nevertheless mourning her loss. Mulligan's acting performance is top notch, with just the right balance of restraint and emotion.

Allison Williams in "Fellow Travelers"

In the acclaimed limited series, we see Alison Williams's character, Lucy, slowly uncovering the clues about her husband's secret relationship with his long-time lover, spanning several decades.

Variety describes the show as, "a narrative about what it means to simultaneously spend a life completely with someone while entirely separate from them," referring to Matt Bomer's Hawkins and Jonathan Bailey's Tim.

But couldn't the same be said for Hawk's wife, who time and time again realizes that her husband's heart has actually been with someone else all these years?

The show chronicles the couple from when they are young and dating, all the way to when they are old with grandchildren, with Lucy gradually realizing that the unspoken "agreements" she's entered into aren't going to work for her anymore. Spoiler alert –Lucy finally confronts Hawk about her lonely existence, and ultimately decides to leave him. Our heart basked in the bitter-sweet decision to finally free herself, and Hawk, from their shackles.

by Jake Myers

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