Pedro Pascal and Ethan Hawke in 'Strange Way of Life' |

‘Strange Way of Life’ Is Director Pedro Almódovar’s “Answer” to ‘Brokeback Mountain’

Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal play lovers in the Western romance ‘Strange Way of Life.’ The film boasts striking similarities to ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ so how are the two projects connected?

It’s been nearly two decades since cinemas saw Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger engage in a forbidden affair in the American West from the 1960s through the 1980s. Their passion was palpable. Their love for one another was undeniable, but never fully realized. Now, it’s 2023 and something similar is here.

Pedro Pascal and Ethan Hawke star in the short film Strange Way of Life from Director Pedro Almódovar (Parallel Lovers, The Skin I Live In, Pain and Glory), which premiered at the Cannes Festival on May 26, 2023. As evident in the trailer, Hawke and Pascal play a lawman and a cowboy in the Wild West — in a film that bears a striking resemblance to Brokeback Mountain. So, are the two films related in any way? 

How is ‘Strange Way of Life’ connected to ‘Brokeback Mountain?’ 

In a mere 31 minutes, this high-octane, romance-fueled narrative takes a queer perspective and brings it into the Western landscape —  in a way that is both revisionist and celebratory of the century-old genre. Yet, anyone familiar with Ang Lee’s classic can’t help but notice the parallels between Strange Way of Life and Brokeback Mountain. 

Speaking about the upcoming film to The New York Times, Almódovar notes that the film is an answer to the somewhat rhetorical question Ledger’s character poses to Gyllenhaal’s regarding what a life for them would look like in Brokeback Mountain. He asks, “What would two men do in the West, working on a Ranch?” Almódovar shared: In many ways, I feel my film gives an answer to that.” 

The film follows Pascal and Hawke — who reunite 25 years following their passionate affair — and can (in some ways) be seen as a continuation of the narrative put forth in Brokeback Mountain. Interestingly enough, Almodovar had a chance to helm the Oscar-winning Brokeback Mountain but turned it down. 

Almódovar turned down ‘Brokeback Mountain’ back in the day

Almodovar turned down the chance to direct Brokeback Mountain, which went on to earn Ang Lee the Academy Award for Best Director in 2006. Now, Almódovar gets to tell his gay Western narrative — with a fresh perspective that makes up for its sometimes sappy loveliness via superb performances from Hawke and Pascal. However, 31 minutes just feels like a complete tease. Speaking about the short length, the director shared: 

“Of course, it could have become a feature-length film…But I do think it was the perfect duration for the story I want to tell.”

The short film premiered to mixed responses at Cannes Film Festival, yet it’s nearly impossible to deny the film’s tenderness, vulnerability, and arousing sensuality. 

About the author

Josh Lezmi

Josh is an entertainment writer and editor at Thought Catalog.