My Rating: 7/10
God. Wow, okay, so that was a movie. I’m just a little stunned coming out of it. Uh, first thing’s first! Beware minor spoilers!
I went into this movie expecting to be bored to tears. Coming-of-age movies do that, don’t they? They drag on, in my opinion. I’m more of a horror, action, maybe comedy when I’m feeling it, kinda person.
But I wasn’t bored with this one. And that’s a fucking shock, because this is a long movie! The pacing, however, is good. The long, drawn out, emotional moments aren’t overwhelming, and all the explosive drama of a family torn apart by faith and fear was enough to keep me immersed in this heart-breaking tale.
The story is about Jared, a young man, conventional in most ways. He likes sports, he’s confident, loyal to his family and to his faith. When in College, he has experiences, mostly bad, and the fallout rips him out of the proverbial closet. His preacher father yeets him off into conversion therapy, and there he faces an onslaught of challenges to his faith and moral compass. At first he wants to change. He wants to make his parents happy, but they taught him right from wrong way too well, apparently, because there is so much wrong with what is going on at that place.
This movie was hard to watch. There’s a lot of abuse: emotional manipulation, outright hatred, ritualistic beatings. None of it is graphic, just enough to make you feel the weight of how very wrong it is. It does not beat you over the head with the horrors, and there are moments of good sprinkled throughout to help us catch our breath.
A handful of interesting characters pass through this story. Xavier, Garry, even Jared’s mother: people I’d love to know more about, but barely get a passing glance of scene time. I wonder if there’s a book that spends more time on them? The dude this movie was based on is a writer, so there may be.
Okay, so I feel like I should address the elephant in the room. A big part of this movie is this character’s struggle with his religion and the religious people around him. I am an atheist, born and raised, and although I have strict catholics and Russian orthodox peeps in my family, I have never experienced the kind of thing movies like this portray. My coming out process was easy as fuck, so I can’t personally comment on the realism of what this character has gone through, except as an observer who loves people who have gone through similar struggles. But it certainly felt real, and that’s to this movie’s credit for sure.
In that vein, there are emotional parts of this character’s personality I couldn’t quite relate to. Like his internal struggles with God. His fear. But even without being able to relate to them, they rang so true. I know atheists who come from religious backgrounds who still fear hell even decades after de-converting because it was drilled so deeply into them. This movie captures that apprehension well, the internal battle between believing and being honest with oneself when those two things are forced to be at odds by the people in his life.
There are little bits I wasn’t crazy about. The biggest thing is probably the flashbacks. I hate it when movies jump back and forth in time, and for me that’s an automatic knock against it because I’ve never seen it done in a way that didn’t rip me out of the story.
Despite that, it was a good movie. Emotional, well written, well acted, all the emotional punches hit right where they were supposed to. I definitely recommend for a realistic portrayal of a young gay may struggling to come to terms with himself when his community is trying to change him.
Also I may or may not have had a tickle in my eye at the end there. Goddamn these allergies I’m pretending I have rn.
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Sam Clover is an author of M/M speculative fiction. Though she dabbles in a variety of genres, dark themes always find ways to permeate her work. She is a prairie girl from east of the Canadian Rockies, and a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community. Her debut book “Cold Snap” was released by Ninestar Press in December of 2020.