TO KID OR NOT TO KID – movie review

TO KID OR NOT TO KID

Helpman Productions
Reviewed for Shockya.com by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Maxine Trump
Screenwriter:  Maxine Trump
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 11/1/18
Opens: November 11, 2018 at the DOC NYC Festival at IFC Center in Greenwich Village


Being married and childless or even being single and having no spawn may be more acceptable today at least in New York or Austin or Hollywood, but it hasn’t yet really caught on with the broad swath of Americana or the whole rest of the world.  Maxine Trump comes to the rescue with “To Kid or Not to Kid,” a 75-minute documentary that does not try to give both sides equal treatment. Yet even film-maker, writer, editor Trump is not entirely sure she made the right decision.

Turkish PM Erdogan says women are not complete without kids.  Denmark, which needs population, put up billboards saying in effect that people have more sex on vacation.  “Take a trip and nine months later you will have a baby.”  Pope Francis notes that people who choose to have no kids are selfish.  Is that why officials in his church are not allow to marry?  The idea that it’s selfish to be childless, or as proponents say, child-free, is absurd since, in fact, having kids is the selfish decision.  Why do people have kids?  Because they want to add people to the banquet of life and to refuse to do so is depriving someone unborn, someone completely without the motivation to be brought to life?  On the contrary.  We have kids because we want someone to love us.  We want to give love to someone.  We want to turn to children when in a crisis.  We want our name to live on forever and forever.   This sounds a lot like selfishness to me and to the proponents of To Not Kid.

Maxine Trump, or if you prefer Maxine Tr*mp,  is a documentary filmmaker who shoots films around the world.  She’s free as a bird.  No mess no fuss. In this chick-flick that she made—a chick flick because men have as much exposure here as they have in the movie “The Favourite,” about British Queen Anne and her two female lovers.

She films the action at a Cleveland No-Kids summit where an African-American woman says in the microphone that in her decision to have no kids feels to her like she’s letting Martin Luther King Jr. down.  While the film is not balanced—and documentaries have no obligation to be neutral—there are some expressions of conflict bordering on regret.  Right now one out of five American women will never have children, so this potential regret is causing a lot of sleepless nights.

Even I, as a member of the male persuasion, have heard these arguments over and over, so there’s nothing new here, though you’re not likely to see a plethora of documentaries or dramas about the no-kid decision.  You are more likely to see more films like the 2006 dystopian drama “Children of Men,” wherein a global loss of fertility could be the death-knell of civilization.  One man has the power to save the earth.

The film had a world premiere at a DOC NYC festival November 11th at 2.15 at the IFC Center on 323  6th Avenue.

75 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B
Technical – B
Overall – B

AT ETERNITY’S GATE – movie review

AT ETERNITY’S GATE

CBS Films
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Julian Schnabel
Screenwriter:  Jean-Claude Carriere, Louise Kugelberg, Julian Schnabel
Cast:  Willem Dafoe, Oscar Isaac, Mathieu Amalric,  Mads Mikkelsen, Emmanuelle Seigner, Amira Casar, Niels Arestrup
Screened at: Bryant Park Hotel, NYC, 11/10/18
Opens: November 16, 2018

What is the principal selling point made by real estate agents when they try to sell pricey apartments?  You’d probably think it was the space that the dwelling affords, though agents try to get away with calling a space that looks like your closet “cozy.”  A most important selling point aside from the quality of the neighborhood and its schools is the amount of light the occupants might enjoy for most of the day.  If you’re not spenders your winters in Iceland, you would indeed be tempted to loosen your wallet if your digs offered brilliant sunlight.

And sunlight is probably the key word when you think of Vincent Van Gogh.  He is portrayed by Willem Dafoe as the director’s accurate image of the artist, the movie itself often an impressionistic look at the post-impressionist painter. (By post-impressionism is meant the attempt by artists of the late 19th and early 20th century to opt for color, line and form rather than the naturalism of the impressionists, emphasizing the artist’s emotional responses–a new style that would lead shortly to expressionism.)

Rather than a biopic, Schnable’s “Eternity’s Gate” is based largely on the painter’s letters, and much of the content of the movie is fictional, but the basic look of Van Gogh’s last years showcases his poverty from the inability to sell his paintings.  At one point he tells a priest that he may have been born too early, that like Jesus, nobody talked about him during his lifetime.

As played by Willem Dafoe who is made up in the image of the painter, Van Gogh has psychological problems which we today all know because the best known fact about the painter’s character is that in a rage he sliced off part of his ear and presented it to a woman.  Though born into an upper-middle class Dutch family, he relies on his brother Theo (Rupert Friend) for support of 250 francs a month, which allows him a decent enough way to live while he does the only thing he says that he knows how to do: paint.  Whether he is hallucinatory in several parts of the movie, whether Schnabel creates scenes from the director’s own imagination, or whether these scenes actually occurred, is anybody’s guess.  For example, at one point he is out in nature on a bright day—the sort of day that keeps him within the limits of sanity.  He is attacked by a class of school children who ignore their teacher and run to him shouting “a painter, a painter,” as though they had just discovered a Ben and Jerry’s out in nowhere.  They upset his paintings and cause Van Gogh to shout “Get out of here,” which is not unlike what occurs later as some kids of about twelve years of age throw rocks at his head and even later when he is threatened by a couple young people with guns.

What comes to mind at some point in the story is whether mental instability is the sina qua non of great artistry. Would Van Gogh have been a greater painter if he were completely normal like some organization man who decades later might be seen riding the French metro?  As a digression consider this example: Neil Simon, who came across in America as someone who could pass for a businessman, knocked out a great many plays and drew large audiences, but none of his writing could be called the work of genius.  Somehow, you may think a guy like Van Gogh is great because he is driven by his demons to do nothing other than paint.

There is little melodrama and even less humor in this serious, albeit imaginative, study.  Some of the interesting conversations include one with a priest (Mads Mikkelsen) working in an asylum for mentally disturbed.  The cleric has no use for one of the paintings, finding it ugly, and indeed it was not one of Van Gogh’s brilliant and famous studies such as “The Starry Night.”  In one conversation with Paul Gauguin (Oscar Isaac, who looks the part), he listens as another rebel against the current style of painting states his intention to go to Madagascar, but of course will wind up in French Polynesia.  The final scene you expect Van Gogh’s to shoot himself in the chest, but fiction prevails as young people torment the man with a gun.  Or is that his imagination?

Considerable imagination goes into Schnabel’s portrait or a painter, one which actually gives us a better picture of Van Gogh’s mental state than would a literal biopic.

110 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B

OF FATHERS AND SONS – movie review

OF FATHERS AND SONS

KINO LORBER
Reviewed for Shockya.com by: Harvey Karten
Director: Talal Derki
Screenwriter: Talal Derki
Cast: Abu Osama
Screened at: Crosby St. Hotel, NYC, 11/7/18
Opens: November 16, 2018

What informal outdoor games did you play with your pals when you were a kid? When I was 12 we played stick-ball in the street, watching out for cars and dodging them as best we could. Punch ball was a variety of this without the technology of the stick. We relied on our own fists to knock out what we called spaldeens (acutally Spaldings). My favorite indoor game was spin the bottle. What do kids in Northern Syria do for fun? In their bombed-out country, courtesy of Bashar al-Assad with the help of the Russians, they play war. There’s not much else to do, as we can see from Talal Derki’s sophomore feature documentary. Derki, whose prize-winning 2013 doc “The Return to Homs” filmed over 3 years, is about a 19 year-old militia leader in a city in Syria’s West, virtually destroyed by Assad’s forces. Homs is a city full of history but is now pockmarked, block after block, its citizens largely having deserted.

This time the brave, even audacious Derki spends two years in Northern Syria as a war journalist who feigns sympathies with the jihadists, gains their confidence, and serves up his documentary as though a drama, full of action, with no tedious interviews—just people chatting with the camera as though it were an old friend, presumably excited to give their views to what they think will be millions of movie fans.

There is plenty of hated among the particular family being filmed by the writer-director’s photographer, Kahtan Hassoun, but though you might expect half the movie to be broadsides against America and Israel, only a token conversation bothers to mention the two states. Even stories of Moses and Abraham are treated warmly. Instead the hatred is directed against Bashar al-Assad who destroyed a good deal of his own country, gassing his own people, welcoming Russian jets into his air space to create more havoc against who he calls “terrorists.” What comes across most vividly, however, is something not overtly covered in the film. This is this: while a large percentage of Americans believe that our government should be arming the rebels against the Syrian dictator, it’s possible that most of the rebels themselves are members of a branch of al-Qaida, a terrorist group that may have contempt for ISIS but is just as much in favor of occupying a vast amount of Middle-East space to form an Islamic caliphate.

As principal character, Abu Osama, is proud of his eight sons—his daughters are not part of the conversation at all and in fact the camera captures only seconds of girls in school. He is proudest of the oldest boy, Osama, who he is training along with the others to become, if necessary, martyrs in the fight against the Syrian government. He passes his hatred down to his offspring, who when not play war games with live ammunition, their faces covered by balaclavas, wrestle with one another and practice throwing rocks at invisible enemies. Sadly, for the forty-something father, he steps on a mine and loses a foot, all of which occur during the two-year time period that Derki patiently spends in the company of what we in America would call terrorists.

Abu Osama is no one-dimensional foe. In a nuanced portrait, we see that he has justifiable rage against the Syrian president who obviously does not drop bombs and engage in chemical and biological warfare for fun. Assad is under attack for years now and has no problem gassing people as collateral damage rather than trying to pick out who are the actual combatants. We in the audience could not be blamed for treating Abu Osama as a character we can to some extent sympathize with, a father who is adored by all eight of his male children, who must suffer the loss of a foot with corresponding pain that is not treated with palliatives. The women who are wailing in sympathy are not shown, presumably because Abu Osama would not permit them to be filmed.

Derki, who lives in Berlin and has received considerable funds from Germany for the making of this film, has succeeded admirably with the risk of his own life and limb to capture the lifestyle—if you can call it that—of people under siege in a battle to which they have committed themselves for revenge against the destruction of their country. It is intimate, a fly-on-the-wall treatment of a single family, while broadly capturing the mind of the jihadist close up.

99 minutes. © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – A-
Overall – B+

WIDOWS – movie review

WIDOWS

20th Century Fox
Reviewed for Shockya.com by: Harvey Karten
Director: Steve McQueen
Screenwriter: Steve McQueen, Gillian Flynn
Cast: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Liam Neeson
Screened at: AMC 34th St., NYC, 11/5/18
Opens: November 16, 2018

Widows Movie Poster

With our own midterm elections just behind us and with discussions that will probably linger for a few more weeks with the TV pundits, politics is very much on our minds. That makes “Widows” a movie which, while not dealing with Trump or Cohen or Hannity or Huffington, might be “ripped from the headlines.” While the concentration is on the mostly African-American ward in Chicago’s South Side rather than with the nation as a whole, “Widows” could stand in for goes on among the people who should be representing us but instead, surprise! are in the business for themselves.

Director Steve McQueen, whose “12 Years a Slave” is, like “Widows,” a look into the corruption of the American empire, then as a freed man is abducted and sold back into slavery, now tackles not only politics and ethics but focuses on problems with gender bias, racist thinking, and the contradictions of capitalism. “Widows” is brilliantly acted particularly by the awesome Viola Davis, but is marred by an overly complex, confusingly edited handling of the plot written by the director and Gillian Flynn.

McQueen opens the movie in the way that so many screenwriting advisors recommend: with a bang. With quite a few bangs, in fact. Mobster Harry Rawlins (Liam Neeson) and his wife Veronica (Viola Davis) are kissing in bed, standing up, and pre- and post-shower. Cut to the scene so common in blockbusters. A job has gone wrong, the SWAT team lets loose with automatic firepower, and Harry is killed. Problems are just beginning for Vernoica as a crime lord, Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) determines that the two million dollars of his, now up in smoke , visits the grieving woman and demands that she pay him back within one month.

When Veronica is not grieving, she’s is carrying her small West Highland Terrier in her arms as though the dog were a stuffed Teddy, which makes you wonder whether the pup is a Mac Guffin or the key to the big twist that comes some three-quarters into the 130 minute movie. Occasionally grounding the dog–surprisingly phlegmatic for a terrier—she assembles other widows in a plot to get five million dollars. Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) a mother with a shop that has been taken over by the gang, Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), a tall, blond, Polish American whose own mother (Jackie Weaver) pimps her out, and Belle (Cynthia Erivo), a hairdresser assigned to be the getaway driver.

If that plot is not complex enough for you, much is made of the candidacy of handsome, slick Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell), driven to run for alderman by his racist father Tom (Robert Duvall) to keep the power in the hands of white people. His opponent, an African-American, refuses to withdraw from the race while both seek the endorsement of the ward’s leading preacher. Yet many African-American women will vote for Mulligan because he provided them with the loans (they were refused by the banks) to open their own businesses. But there’s a catch, and that brings in serial killer Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya—the great actor who shined in last year’s best movie, “Get Out”, the only performer who could begin to match Viola Davis).

Confusing, needs a second viewing to unscramble the erratic editing, great acting, good visuals.

128 minutes. © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B-
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B

EL ANGEL – movie review

EL ANGEL

The Orchard
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Luis Ortega
Screenwriters:  Luis Ortega, Rodolfo Palacios, Sergio Olguín
Cast:  Lorenzo Ferro, Chino Darín, Mercedes Moran, Cecilia Roth, Daniel Fanego, Luis Gnecco
Screened at: Dolby88, NYC, 10/30/18
Opens: November 9, 2018
El Ángel Movie Poster
After the murder of eleven synagogue congregants on 10/27/18 by Robert Bowers, some the grieving family contemplated his picture.  One fellow said, “He doesn’t look like the face of evil.”  Whether from comic books or movies or videogames, many of us think that killers look the part: smirking with scarred faces or showing Hitler-type mustaches, bulging eyes, maybe bad teeth and comb-over hair lines.   The reality is that criminals are likely to look like any of us: riding the subways, sitting before computers, relaxing in an easy chair.  The evil that men do lives after them, as Marc Antony said in “Julius Caesar,” but there is like to be no reflection on their faces.  Such is the case in spades when we consider Carlos Robledo Puch (Lorenzo Ferro), known to friends and family as Carlitos, because the title figure, the angel, looks like what we conceive to be the face of pure innocence.  Though in real life he killed eleven people and committed robbery forty-two times, this seventeen-year-old is hardly the typical angel—except perhaps the fallen angel known as Satan.  You will not find horns growing on Carlito’s head and if he has a tail he hides it well.  What’s more, instead of a pitchfork—which we’d have hoped he’d use—he has a collection of guns, any number of which he used to carry out his killing, sometimes holding the firearms in both hands as though a figure out of the Old West.

This story based on the true events in the life of Puch—who, having served over forty-six years in jail is Argentina’s longest-serving prisoner ever—is directed by Luis Ortega with an eye for letting us contemplate the possible effect of his attraction toward young men on his crimes—though no outright homosexual act is filmed.  The thirty-eight-year-old Buenos Aires writer-director Ortega, whose “Black Box” is more of a character study involving three people than a riveting look at crime, allows Lorenzo Ferro to anchor the movie.  Ferro, in his debut as an actor, is in virtually every scene, committing his robberies and murders without much of a motive except to have some fun.  The curly-haired seventeen-year-old partners up with Ramón Peralta (Chino Darin) while both are sharing a class in a vocational high school, his choice probably based on the handsome looks of a guy a year or two older whose attention Carlos craves.  The partnership is sealed after Carlos holds a Bunsen burner close to his classmate’s back, resulting in suffering a sharp punch to Carlos’s left cheek, and from then on they are fast friends and partners in crime.

Ramón’s role model is the young man’s father, José (Daniel Fanego) an ex-convict who shoots up through his ankles, married to  Ana (Mercedes Morán) who at one point tries to seduce Carlos as though playing Mrs. Robinson to Ben Braddock in “The Graduate.” We’re convinced that this Carlitos is the polar opposite of the type of person some of us believe killers resemble.

A string of holdups include the robbery of a couple of dozen guns, some necklaces and rings, and in one case the cracking open of a safe with surprising results.  Carlos, obviously a thrill-seeker rather than a needy individual (though in an early scene he sounds like a Marxist), has had a good upbringing with honest and caring parents Héctor (Luis Gnecco) and Aurora (Cecilia).  Both look after their boy, obviously overjoyed with the good lucks for which they may take credit, but the best upbringings do not necessarily lead to favorable results.

The robberies and murders are shown as capricious rather than based on a need to do away with witnesses to crimes.  In fact they are part of the teen’s need for attention and thrills.  A stolen car, one of which leads to a head-on collision that may or may not have been
accidental, becomes part of Carlos’s carelessness, a flaw that will lead to his capture and long-term imprisonment.

The film in Spanish with clear subtitles and a terrific soundtrack of over a dozen instrumentals, is Argentina’s entry into the 91st Academy Awards competition, a worthy effort that will cement your impression that lawbreakers, even of the extreme kind, can look like you and me and Robert Bowers.

118 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+

RBG – movie review

RBG

Magnolia Pictures
Reviewed for BigAppleReviews.net & Shockya.com by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Julie Cohen, Betsy West
Cast:  Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Bill Clinton, Orrin Hatch, The Notorious B.I.G, Gloria Steinem
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 11/3/18
Opens: May 4, 2018, Streaming August 28, 2018 and sure to be considered for awards votes beginning 11/29/18.
RBG Movie Poster
With whom on the Supreme Court would you feel most comfortable to have a beer?  Roberts? Alito? Gorsuch, Kavanaugh?  These four may be too conservative, even reactionary for you, assuming that you’re a progressive at heart, but that’s not to say they’re no fun. Remember that progressives and conservatives, even reactionaries, can have good times together. As we see from this biopic, the title character, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, had a remarkable friendship with Antonin Scalia though they were polar opposites in their legal ideologies.  They were both opera buffs and even shared an elephant ride in India, quite a bit more time together than just enjoying a Bud Light.  If you’re in your twenties or thirties, you probably can’t imagine sharing much with a woman 85 years old and give or take a couple of inches standing five feet tall, but whenever Justice Ginsburg speak before a group of high-school or college students she generates formidable  electricity.  If you can forget about the recent nomination kerfuffle involving Brett Kavanaugh, it’s possible that RBG is the only Supreme Court Justice that a broad sweep of Americana had even heard of.

Co-director Julie West, known for “American Veteran” (a veteran returns from the wars with serious injurious from an IED in Afghanistan) and Betsy West, at the helm of “The Lavender Scare” (President Eisenhower determines that homosexuals are a security risk) are able to express their progressive views again, teaming up for the picture with what will probably be the shortest title this year.
And the picture is a doozy.  If you expect some solemn, government-issued coverage of one of nine Supreme Court justices, you are happily mistaken, because Cohen and West make sure to capture some of the key comic moments of Ginsburg’s life.

To be sure, some portions of the movie will deal with cases that were turning points in American jurisprudence, giving Ginsburg the opportunity to write dissenting opinions with the one-after-another 5-4 rulings.  Most of all, though, the documentarians, who have caught key moments in her life, make this quite an entertainment while grounded in the RBG as a human being.  Chief among her views is that men and women should be considered equal, getting the same pay for the same work and the same chances for promotions.  It should be obvious to all that anything less than such equality is beyond the pale, yet in the case of Frontiero v. Richardson in 1973, a married woman had to fight the U.S. Air Force to get the same housing benefits as her male colleagues.  In United States v. Virginia, a 1996 case held that women must be admitted to the Virginia Military Institute, or VMI.  What woman even today would not appreciate given the choice of dating classmates when outnumbered by men by some 50 to 1?

The film quickly covers her childhood in Brooklyn, New York, her high-school days, and the higher education which allowed RBG to practice law and to climb the ladder to sit with the highest court in the land.  Martin Ginsburg, her late husband, comes across as her leading cheerleader, which may have helped them to enjoy a marriage lasting over half a century.  A Saturday Night Live sketch highlights Kate McKinnon’s gleefully impersonating RBG lifting weights, and so constantly in motion that she is virtually break dancing. And in fact to this day she works out in a gym with a trainer who gets her to 20 pushups at a time while a couple of women approaching her age joke that they could probably not be able even to get up from the floor—or even to get down to the floor!

As a badge of honor she was criticized by President Trump for saying that in effect the man is unqualified to sit in the Oval Office, and while not mentioned in this film, she joked that she might consider moving to New Zealand if he became President.  Caricatures show her as Wonder Woman and other Marvel heroes, roles you would not expect for such a slight, quiet, woman, unassuming—that is until she shows her teeth in trashing some of the Supreme Court majority opinions that set the country back to the bad old days, according to progressives.  She pulled no punches while interviewed by the Senate, which had the power to confirm or withhold Bill Clinton’s nomination of the woman, holding that women should have reproductive rights.  Such a viewpoint in 2018 would probably have a nominee rejected by the world’s most prestigious club, yet she was confirmed 96-3.

It’s a pleasure to take in the full-of-life biopic of the Court’s most vivid, celebrated, and revered woman.

96 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+

BOY ERASED – movie review

BOY ERASED

Focus Features
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Joel Edgerton
Screenwriter:  Joel Edgerton, based on Garrard Conley’s memoir
Cast:  Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Joel Edgerton, Xavier Dolan, Troye Sivan, Cherry Jones
Screened at: Park Ave., NYC, 10/2/18
Opens: November 2, 2018
Boy Erased - Poster Gallery
When you live in New York, the most progressive large city in America, you may not realize what’s going on in broad swaths of our country.  Look at a map and you’ll find that blue states are largely in coastal areas while broad reaches of the South and Mid-West are red.  And since New Yorkers live in a state where parents have been noted to demonstrate with signs saying “I am proud of my gay son,” we are unaware that millions of parents of gay children are either in denial or coerce their gay kids into pursuing change.  These guardians, perhaps because they want to be grandparents or they believe erroneously that they are guilty of “making” their children homosexual, may opt to enroll their young ‘uns in gay conversion therapy.  Never mind that this technique has been proven worthless and that few if any graduates change their sexual orientation.

Thanks to the writings of Garrard Conley, whose memoir “Boy Erased: A Memoir” recounts his weeks in an Arkansas center claiming to reverse the sexual orientation of their charges, we now have a movie adapting his book.  “Boy Erased” could be called a biopic, though the names of the characters have been changed.  Though Joel Edgerton, the director who plays a major role of a counselor, is known principally as an actor. “Boy Erased” is his sophomore entry in filmmaking.

You might expect a writer or director to come out forcefully and with brutal satirical edges in describing what goes on in gay conversion centers, but Edgerton’s character are appropriately nuanced.  The head counselor at an Arkansas center, Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton), is not the sort of person you might want to have a beer with since he does carry on with a project that endorses some sadism.  Though he seems to have no professional qualifications for the job, he treats the mostly young class of gays with tough love, breaking into some brutal treatment about midway into the story.

The nonlinear story is loaded with flashbacks which seem to me entirely unnecessary, as a straightforward chronological approach would have been less confusing.  We are introduced to Marshall Eamons (Russell Crowe), the father of Jaren Eamons (Lucas Hedges) and husband of Nancy Eamons (Nicole Kidman).  Since Marshall is a Baptist pastor who wants his son to marry his girlfriend and make him a grandfather, he sees his chances fading when the 18-year-old confesses to being homosexual.  With the support of his religious wife, he enrolls the boy in a 23-weeks’ indoctrination program that pledges to bring the men and women back into the Lord’s fold.  The principal problem with the program is its worthlessness, not the brutality, which is shown in two scenes involving beating a boy on the back with the Bible.  Mostly the folks are treated with compassion.

Jared goes along with everything, sucking up his antipathy for the class, releasing his anger toward the movie’s conclusion, in effect dropping out while he still has some feelings of independence.  Hedges, whom you may have seen in “Manchester by the Sea,” conveys his mixed emotions exquisitely, filling almost every scene with his presence, and is particularly watchable when bouncing his emotions off his mother, who ultimately accepts her son’s homosexuality; his father, who refuses to keep the lad under his roof unless he changes; and especially against the counselor. Given today’s efforts by Judge Kavanaugh to defend himself against charges of involvement in a near rape, we are particularly horrified to watch Jared’s being raped by his college roommate, reinforcing the idea that he has been too passive for much of his life and needs to break out or be emotionally crushed for decades.

One hopes that in states that still allow conversion therapy of minors—that’s all but a handful—people will go to screenings, which might inspire them to do their own research.  A dispassionate look at the many reports that indicate that conversion therapy is not only cruel but worthless if the aim is to convert gays into hetero might convince some people but will likely be dismissed by Trump supporters who care little about science and more about mythology.

114 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B