Love Is All You Need?
dir K Rocco Shields
prd Michael J Zampino
scr David Tillman, K Rocco Shields
with Briana Evigan, Tyler Blackburn, Elisabeth Rohm, Jeremy Sisto, Emily Osment, Kyla Kenedy, Jacob Rodier, Ana Ortiz, Blake Cooper Griffin, Jenica Bergere, Katherine LaNasa, Leonard Roberts
release US 24.Nov.16
16/US 2h02
Love Is All You Need?
Forbidden love: Evigan and Blackburn

rohm sisto ortiz
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Love Is All You Need? This high-concept drama may be overwrought and gimmicky, but the themes it explores are far too important to discount. The only note of irony is in the "inspired by true events" caption at the beginning. Otherwise, it's played for full-tilt melodrama in an alternate reality where heterosexuality is the deviation, and young people are told by the church to be homosexual.

University football star Jude (Evigan) is destined for a career as a professional player. But she gets in big trouble when she falls for student journalist Ryan (Blackburn). Her girlfriend Kelly (Osment) reacts badly, jeopardising Jude's future and endangering Ryan with his frat-house brothers. Local church minister Rev Rachel (Rohm) continues to preach against heterosexuality, stirring her parishioners to hatred and violence. She also squares off against a growing movement seeking hetero equality, led by new neighbour Susan (Ortiz), who isn't accepted because she's a "ro".

Nicely shot with a bold sense of pace, the film draws us in with a slick TV-style production design and a fresh cast that plays up the undercurrents. It's also relentlessly corny. The script revels in flipping gender stereotypes, inverting the usual bigotries so precisely that there isn't much space for real insight. The story might have had more scope told straightly, as it were, because this way it feels vaguely homophobic despite clear efforts to do the opposite. This is partly due to some jarringly uneven editing and the Lifestyle-movie tone.

Aside from looking a decade too old, the lead actors are solid as kids grappling with an issue the church thinks has been settled for good. Evigan and Blackburn are believable in the central roles, even in some awkwardly written scenes. And there's an intriguing sideplot involving two pre-teens (Kenedy and Rodier) whose teacher (Sisto) is controversially staging the original hetero version of Romeo & Juliet. Meanwhile, other characters of various ages face cruelty from the pack mentality.

The film feels very long, making its urgent point over and over. Rachel's sermons against equality are almost word-for-word what preachers say in many American churches today, sparking hate crimes as horrific or even worse that those depicted here. So the message is urgent, but while some some viewers may be sparked to think about these issues in new ways, for most it will feel very gimmicky. And as the film heads to its super-nasty climax, there's also the sense that it's preaching to the choir.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 23.Nov.16

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