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When Harry (Bryce Johnson), a former boy band idol, goes on a camping adventure with his teenage brother Max (Cole Williams), the pair's relationship takes a serious turn, both physically and emotionally. As Max longs to connect with Harry and encourage stability in his life, he goads him to rekindle his affections for his former girlfriend (Rain Phoenix). In the process, Harry and Max redefine their own boundaries as they cope with their dysfunctional family and affection for each other. Co-starring Michelle Phillips. Written and directed by Christopher Münch (The Hours and Times, The Sleepy Time Gal).

 Harry and Max

Characters struggling to find their way amid conflicting beliefs can be more interesting than plot-derived conflict. These stories, focusing on character to the exclusion of almost everything else, have always been the types of films I wanted to make. The script of Harry and Max seemed to fit that bill. It came about suddenly, and with some urgency, as if its two heroes wanted their story told. The process of shooting the film reflected this urgency: after much work on the script and intensive rehearsal, it was a short production schedule, with a tiny crew—a return to the simplicity of my early projects.

The teen idol phenomenon has always seemed wrought with pathos and emotional complications just beneath its sugar-coated surface. With Harry and Max—two brothers appearing whole-cloth and ready to delve into their rambunctious sexual machinations—there seemed an opportunity to combine serious character study with an aspect of pop culture that would hopefully keep things from getting too heavy. Also, it was a chance to paint an incestuous relationship that was unlike the “bad” or “coercive” ones we sometimes see in films and on T.V., at least in the U.S. In our case the incest aspect is just one part of the boys’ maturation—and one with which they must eventually come to terms. But this doesn’t mean they can’t have fun along the way. They should be as matter-of-fact with each other as any two brothers. Moreover, it was always clear that Harry and Max were to be each other’s most generous friend and advocate. They would push each other around in their search for their own identities.

And in his genuine and loving concern for Max (apart from whatever erotic preoccupation steals its way into his consciousness on what we are to presume is a somewhat regular basis), Harry finds a sense of his own adult personality—the thoughtful, warm, humorous Harry that has often been eclipsed by the impulsive, reckless and fearful Harry—and what he must do to get there. It won’t be an easy road. Max, on the other hand, has been dealt a strong hand in life—he has an energetic and far-reaching intelligence plus good looks that will serve him well in the finicky and ephemeral pop scene. But it is on the very career that he has been handed (which his mother is determined to maximize in the wake of Harry’s blundering) that Max must finally turn his back. Or does he? Could it be that Max takes all he has seen and done and out of it builds a career of sanity and good citizenship?

In order to answer these questions, and to see more of the boys and their cohorts for whom I had developed great affection, it was my initial hope to make Harry and Max as a television series. But alas that has not yet happened. Indeed, I’ve been taken aback by some of the reactions to the film: it’s as if part of the audience is responding not to the movie but to their own fears and prejudices. On the other hand, quite a number of people have approached me after screenings to thank me for making a film that touched on their own lives. Whatever an audience brings to the film, I hope they will bring an enquiring mind and willingness to see the great, loving potential in all human relationships.