The new queer coming-of-age comedy “Three Months” stars Troye Sivan as Caleb, a charismatic gay high schooler awaiting test results after an HIV exposure. Heartfelt, funny, and brimming with lovable characters, the film is a joyous ode to queer friendship that makes huge strides towards de-stigmatizing the contemporary conversation around HIV. But the film also portrays another little-known sub-section of the LGBTQ community: Orthodox Jews.
While “Transparent” may have forever wedded TV caricatures of secular Jews with neurotic queer people (Amy Landecker even stars as Caleb’s mom in Jared Frieder’s film), modern Orthodox Jews are rarely portrayed onscreen. That unique element of Caleb’s story was not only personally important to writer/director Frieder, but to Sivan as well.
“I grew up in…an Orthodox community in Australia. The thing is, though, because it was such a small Jewish community, there was only one Jewish school and it was an Orthodox school. So no matter where you personally landed on the spectrum of observance, we all went to the Orthodox school. So it was very, very, very familiar to me,” Sivan told IndieWire.
In the film, Caleb is practically abandoned by his Orthodox mother because he is gay, and lives with his much more accepting grandmother (Ellen Burstyn) and her doting partner (Louis Gossett Jr.), a dynamic duo if ever there was one. While Caleb’s scenario may be realistic for the majority of LGBTQ youth with religious parents, Sivan found himself embraced by his Jewish community.
“For me personally, I definitely had my ups and downs with being gay and Jewish. It was tough,” Sivan said. “Then on the other side of it, I got really lucky. I had an Orthodox rabbi who was so cool about me being gay and so accepting, and literally wanted to invite my boyfriend up to the bimah in shul. It was a very accepting scenario, which I think probably surprised some of the community around us.”
Because he had such a positive experience, he was concerned that the film not portray Judaism too negatively. Sivan worked closely with Frieder to make sure Caleb’s connection to Judaism remained unmarred.
“I said to Jared that I want to explore this, but I also want to show Jewish kids that there are ways you can be queer and Jewish and make it work,” Sivan said. “I don’t believe in God, for example, personally, but I feel extremely Jewish in my culture. It’s the way I grew up. I think I would love to do Shabbat with my kids one day. There’s a lot that’s really important to me. I wanted to show that it’s nuanced.”
“Three Months” is now streaming on Paramount+.