There have been no shortage of films dealing with the impossible notion of converting “confused” young men from gay to straight (cross-references below). Not surprisingly, the instigators are almost always religious moralists who know that their sons and daughters will see the way to Christ once they give up—forcibly in many instances—their natural inclinations.
Meet Jared (Lucas Hedges excelling again in the wide-ranging role where the sex scenes are darkened but the emotional angst is clearly under the spotlight)—whose father is a bible-thumping preacher (stoically rendered by Russell Crowe) who knows that his son’s wayward feelings and hideous acts of love can only be stifled by a regimen of conversion therapy (never mind about the qualifications of those “men” who perform this repulsive service for a fee).
Like most dutiful sons, Jared wants to please his parents (Mom steals every scene she’s in thanks to the acting acumen of Nicole Kidman—far outshining in deeds the lines she is given by Garrad Conley and director Joel Edgerton, who also portrays the master of all misguided homosexual men and women)—so opts to undergo the treatment: praise the lord, pass the next available woman.
All of the 9-5 residents (there is the possibility of long-term stays for the truly damned) are instructed to compose their “Moral Inventory” then speak all of their heinous sins aloud to their classmates—the notion being that once exposed to everyone, redemption can’t be far behind. But what if some of those honest experiences are just that? What if I actually like the company and closeness to those of my own sex?
As Jared reviews his few assignations, he comes to realize that one was unwanted rape, the other a platonic but loving friend. Why, then, does he need to be cured of anything? When it is his turn to declaim his transgressions, the troubled youth understands that it is his accusers that need help—not himself, aided and abetted by his inmates (most notably football star Cameron—heroically portrayed by Britton Sear—never a doubt that his character will never make the finish line), it falls to the vicar’s son to denounce his accusers and—finally—convince Mom to counter his god-fearing dad.
Sadly, many more young teens will succumb to Cameron’s fate than being allowed to be themselves—with or without the “blessings” of their family, wearing a collar or just the garb of moral superiority.
Once again, those who really need to see this story, never will. JWR