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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Robert Cary|
scr Craig Chester, Allan Hines, Robert Desiderio
with Chad Allen, Robert Gant, Judith Light, Stephen Lang, Robert Baker, William Dennis Hurley, Arron Shiver, Paul Scallan, David Petruzzi, Colin Jones, Greg Serrano, Adam Taylor
release US Jan.07 sff; UK Mar.08 llgff
Fight the urge: Allen and Gant
With a sensitive, intelligent screenplay and extremely honest performances, this drama goes far beyond its issue-of-the-week premise to ask challenging and important questions.
After a suicide attempt, Mark (Allen) is sent by his brother (Scallan) to Genesis, a 12-step programme in rural New Mexico for men who want to leave homosexuality. The founders are Gayle and Ted (Light and Lang), and while Mark takes a while to warm to his new roommate (Baker), he quickly befriends Scott (Gant), a kindred-spirit rebel. Over the following months, Mark works to straighten out his chaotic life, but struggles with his attraction toward Scott. Is it possible to reconcile Christianity and sexuality?
While the story sets itself up as yet another liberal rant against religion, the film rises far beyond that due to its even-handed characterisations. Gayle is strident and narrow-minded, and yet powerfully sympathetic, thanks to a combination of good writing and expert acting from Light. Her silly rules (no pink, don't cross your legs!) mask her underlying compassion. And both Allen and Gant never allow the clichˇs to take root while adding depth and shadings to their characters.
All the way through, the film grapples truthfully with the issues (although die-hard conservatives wouldn't agree). Gayle's past feels like a simplistic explanation of her motives, but she also says, "I don't change people; I show them how to get closer to Jesus and let them make their own way," which shows her confidence in the gospel even as her patients understand that changing who they are isn't an option. All they can do, perhaps, is change their behaviour. And as Mark reads the over-familiar words of 1 Corinthians 13 in a church service, the implication is seriously revelatory.
The drama is punctuated by therapy sessions as characters talk through their issues. Their imperfect struggles to do the best they can makes the story immediately identifiable. And the film is peppered with telling, touching, wrenching scenes. Even the side characters get their moments--the golden boy (Hurley) who can't quite rid himself of his desire, the artist (Shiver) with the haunting past, the roommate who secretly regrets that he's never acted on his "sexual brokenness".
Yes, it's pretty heavy stuff, but like the similar, Mormon-themed Latter Days, the central drama carries us along effortlessly. And director Cary makes sure that the tone is sharp and realistic, with frequent humorous asides and a refusal to fall into stereotypes. And in the end it actually has the nerve to admit that people have to make this decision for themselves, whichever way they choose to go.
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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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