As a writer, Annie Proulx is interested in examining the lives of people trapped in dying cultures and subcultures. In Accordion Crimes, for instance, Proulx traced the passages of the musical instrument of the title among people affiliated with various of the United States ethnic and regional subcultures, people whose only recourse to poverty and alienation could be found in music. The original story of "Brokeback Mountain" traced this sense of disconnection and despair thoroughly, with the two ranch hands' romantic desire for the independent life of the cowboy of the Old West, the incapacity of Ennis to fit into a family life on the plains of Wyoming, Jack's quiet unhappiness in Texas, and the two never managing to articulate the sort of relationship that they would have been interested in.
The story ends badly, of course. That's typical of gay-focused fiction, though I'm tempted to say that there couldn't have been any happy resolution to that summer spent herding sheep on Brokeback Mountain by Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist. I tend to prefer fiction that corresponds more-or-less to real life, and I really don't think that Jack Twist's dreams of taking Ennis and leading a life as rancher on the high Wyoming frontiers could have been realized given the correlation of forces opeating against them (region, class, social background). For them and for theirs, pain was the only dependable result. This whole scenario is typical of the standard doomed-romance story, of course; that's likely why both Christianity Today and National Review were able to recognize this as a love story. It's still a good film for all this thematic conventionality, though, with the acting of the leads and Michelle Williams and Ang Lee's cinematography and Proulx's dialogue all resonating with the viewer. Brokeback Mountain isn't adventurous, but it is quietly powerful in a very good way indeed.