Thirty years before Sen. Barack Obama broke through a significant political color barrier, Harvey Milk tore down a similar wall that was obstructing America's gay community from holding political office.

Milk finds experimental auteur Gus Van Sant taking cautious steps back toward the mainstream to celebrate Harvey's accomplishments. Van Sant's tender human-interest story, which showcases Sean Penn's considerable talents, is a closer relative to earlier efforts such as Finding Forrester or Good Will Hunting than to recent, abstruse features like Elephant, the spare Gerry, or the haunting Last Days.

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