JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Fair Haven (Director: Kerstin Karlhuber) - March 21, 2017

Fair Haven

4 4
90 min.

Joining the circus of life

Well-meaning parents who only want what’s “best” for their children have taken a variety of approaches to the unthinkable possibility that their daughters or sons are unalterably attracted to the same sex. Some dive right into “tough love”: “Go straight or get out of the house”; others provide their lavender-leaning offspring books and pamphlets whose words alone will surely put them back on the “right track”; a few dig deep into their wallets and pay for all manner of psychological and/or religious therapy as the means to reclaim these—to themselves and their friends—lost souls who can’t seem to live life “as God intended.”

Director Kerstin Karlhuber—most ably assisted by writer Jack Bryant—has artfully fashioned a film that describes the consequences and techniques of engaging a bible-thumping psychologist in the task of ridding his charges from their evil lusts and reminding them that “sin is very attractive.” Gregory Harrison is entirely convincing as the man of science who throws reason under the bus in order to please his heavenly father.

Having been pronounced “cured”, handsome James returns home to the family-run apple orchard farm no longer filled with wicked thoughts of resuming his “disgusting” relationship with the wiser-than-his years, Charlie. Karlhuber has been extraordinarily fortunate casting Michael Grant in the pivotal role, for his character is set on becoming a concert pianist and Grant does a most credible performing Brahms and Chopin, notably the former’s ever-engaging Waltz in A-flat Major, Op. 39, No. 15, which becomes an aural plot point that brings his family together in a very moving way. (Tom Wopat as stubborn, curmudgeon Dad delivers a finely nuanced transition to begrudging acceptance of something he will never understand; now a widower, his wife, nonetheless makes her presence felt from the other side.)

And it must be said that the original score from Christopher Farrell is entirely at one with the Vermont countryside (infused with Appalachian Spring-like clarinet lines and an echo of the Brahms waltz at a key moment in Dad’s metamorphosis. The songs within the film (especially “Why Can’t We Say Goodbye”) and over the credits (Wopat doing a fine job with “Flying”) reinforce the themes and help maintain interest in the deliberately slow pace of James’ journey back to his true identity.

Josh Green is the ideal foil as James’ first love then “we’d better stay away” through gay bashing victim and, happily, lover and confidante whose wish to run away and “join the circus” resonates on many levels just as Dad’s “should we go organic or not?” dilemma further fuels the notion of how things change. A magical moment comes when James and Charlie men literally run through the “natural” forest and into each other’s loving arms.

The inevitable subplot of the newly minted heterosexual going out with a girl (Lily Anne Harrison—yes, daughter of Gregory: it’s a family affair!—gamely survives the awkward role) is the weakest part of an otherwise thoughtful study of the terrors and fears which so many people must endure when their inner being chooses to no longer mask the truth and—like world-class composers—express themselves for all to hear, if they can bear to do so. JWR

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Reader's Forum
July 23, 2021

As a gay guy from Iowa, thanks for your sensitive review of Fair Haven. I just finished watching it and related to it on various levels. I did not grow up on a farm, but I am a classical singer who had to leave the Midwest to pursue my career, as well as the deep prejudice against gay people in that part of the country.

Richard F., San Francisco, USA