A young gay man tries to overcome conversion therapy after returning to his small town.
Nobody is quite sure what goes on in gay conversion therapies except those who have gone through it.
At one point in history (maybe even today) expelling the gay out of someone meant electro-shock treatments and aggressive forms of subliminal brain washing.
Within the LGBT and mental health communities it is widely recognized that these treatments not only don’t work, but have damaging effects on the individuals who barely survive.
Such is the premise of Kerstin Karlhuber’s "Fair Haven."
It's a beautiful exploration of the human spirit wrestling with the Holy Spirit in a battle where the victor wins control of who we love.
In the film, the handsome gay protagonist, 19-year-old James Grant (Michael Grant), is past the age of self-realization, but denied further passage, especially by a Christian preacher (Gregory Harrison) who uses scripture as a barrier.
James knows he’s gay and even had a long term boyfriend before being sent away to the program. In the opening we find him returning home to Vermont on a train with more baggage than he originally started.
Although it’s not quite clear why his father (Tom Wopat) found it necessary to "fix" him. Their relationship is never consistently verbally abusive, and he doesn’t seem to be outwardly homophobic. I would venture to guess that the therapy has more to do with the issues his dad is dealing with rather than trying to get his son on the "right path."
Still the damage has been done and James returns home to start his new life as a “straight” man.
His former flame Charlie (Josh Green) now works at the mercantile and must interact with James when he delivers apples from his farm.
Their reunion turns awkward because James obviously still has feelings for Charlie, but having been taught that his attraction is a sin, he turns aggressive toward him, dismissing his feelings as the Devil's indulgence.
But It’s clear the two share more than just a loving friendship. James still keeps old photos of their time together in an old black cardboard box in his bedroom.
After shunning Charlie, James tries to tread carefully down a biblical path, going so far as to feign interest in a local girl - a preacher's daughter no less - he cannot help but struggle with the attraction he still feels for Charlie while exploring life as a "straight" male.
The film is never too dramatic, but that’s alright. It is a romance at its core and I was rooting for Charlie and James' love affair to re-kindle the entire time.
Michael Grant is a heartthrob with an adorable under bite and crush-worthy dimples. His James is not feminine acting, nor is he interested in Lady Gaga, Cher or any other icon in popular gay culture.
Grant's performance edges on perfection, he lets every thought act out on his face without having to utter a line. His countenance is that of a wounded child with hints of a rousing heart.
James (and Michael Grant in real life) is also a musical genius. He dreams of going to college and studying his art, but his father has spent the college fund on his wife's funeral arrangements and other bills; forgoing his son's dreams for life's responsibilities.
Fair Haven is an important film. Thanks to Grant’s performance as James we are instantly attracted to his strength and fragile attempts at resolve. We keep waiting for him to smile, and when he finally does it sends a powerful message.
Under Kerstin Karlhuber’s direction “Fair Haven” is a modern love story, with cognitive dissonance playing Capulet to The Bible's Montague. However, the denouement is far less tragic.
"Fair Haven" is a captivating story, where love for oneself is misaligned with the love for someone else, until eventually the twain naturally combine to propitiate the betrayal. The film reaches, not preaches to the audience, driving home the point that given the choice most people strive to make the right decision, but discover, however damaging, they never needed to make one in the first place.
"Fair Haven" plays at the Landmark Theatre in Hillcrest on Wednesday, August 10, at 7 pm.
Meet Director Kerstin Karlhuber and cast members Gregory Harrison and Lily Anne Harrison for a Q&A after the screening.
Get Tickets HERE.