Considering the recent passage of Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriages in California, said Marco della Cava in USA Today, the timing of Gus Van Sant’s biopic Milk (watch the trailer here, via YouTube) is “uncanny.” Sean Penn stars as 1970s gay rights activist Harvey Milk, and not only is Penn’s performance “garnering Oscar attention,” this movie could be elevated “from historical reminiscence to what some gay rights activists see as a rallying cry.”

But “can the dramatized Milk make the same kind of political impact as his real-life counterpart?” said Reyhan Harmanci in the San Francisco Chronicle. The movie may "spark meaningful conversations about gay rights," but have past films about issues of race ever changed people’s attitudes? “Not all experts are convinced” of Milk’s “efficacy as an instrument of political change.”

Milk has “an obvious topical hook in California's Proposition 8,” said Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune, but there’s more to this movie than gay rights and historical reflection. “Van Sant's only real agenda here is to pay tribute to an unlikely politician, and to remind us all that guiding lights are not to be taken for granted.”