Movie Review - Fair Haven

Playing at qFLIX Philadelphia.
Northeast Premiere, Wednesday, March 15 at 5PM at the Prince Theater.

It provides a glimpse into the so-called conversion therapy, religious counseling that aims to talk queer youth out of same-sex attraction. The movie frames the conversion therapy around a slight coming-of-age story about a piano prodigy from the rural northeast who attempts to reconcile his relationship with his widowed father who wants his son to inherit the family's apple farm.

Michael Grant (The Secret Life of the American Teenager) stars as James, a 19-year-old boy who has the ability to play the piano very well. He's particularly adept at performing Brahms and Chopin. He wants to study music at Berkeley College in Boston. It seems as though he and his parents saved up money for him to go, yet he had to defer going for a year because it was discovered that James is gay. Instead of college, James had to go to conversion therapy.

Tom Wopat (The Dukes of Hazzard) co-stars as Richard, the widowed father of James who had to deal with his ailing wife who eventually died while James was away. The hospital bills and eventual funeral cleaned him out. He now has to run his apple farm all by himself. He grows and tends acres and acres of apple trees. He picks the apples, boxes them and sells them to local grocers, but his wife's mortality has him thinking about his own and he wants James to take over the family farm someday, so he does all he can to pressure and demand James not to go to college.

Josh Green (Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip) also co-stars as Charlie, the ex-boyfriend of James who works at a local grocer that buys cases of Richard's apples. Unlike James, Charlie didn't go to conversion therapy and isn't being pressured to be heterosexual, at least not in a way that we see. He does get bulled and physically threatened, which is the opposite of what he does in his Alvin and the Chipmunks role, but he doesn't let the bullying stop him. When James returns from conversion therapy, it's obvious that Charlie still has feelings for his ex.

Director Kerstin Karlhuber has an image of the two boys sitting along the banks of a body of water, which resembles the poster image for a similarly titled gay film, Rock Haven (2007). Both movies are indicative of a crop of LGBT fare that exist in the crossroads of the rural and the religious. This movie leans on the religious aspect but gently drops the audience into the conversion therapy.

There are no histrionics within the scenes involving the conversion therapy. The movie doesn't condemn or demonize the man running the conversion therapy. He's named Doctor Gallagher and he's played by Gregory Harrison (Trapper John, M.D.). He's challenged somewhat, but he's not made out to be a monster. His homophobia comes across as a gentle touch and not a slap. He's not forceful or mean or even harsh. Similar to Stephen Cone's The Wise Kids, this movie doesn't make being gay and being Christian mutually exclusive.

Written by Jack Bryant, the movie however focuses on the father-son relationship between James and Richard. The idea of a father wanting to pass on a family business to his son is an idea that goes back on film as far as Giant (1956). This movie isn't as sprawling as Giant. The father-son relationship isn't as central in that 1956 film as it is here. Giant is told more from the father's point-of-view, whereas this one is told more from the son's.

I would go out on a limb and say that Michael Grant gives a better performance than Dennis Hopper in Giant, but probably because Grant is more the center here and is given more to wrestle. Tom Wopat isn't given nearly as much as Rock Hudson in Giant, yet one feels for Wopat's character in a way that one doesn't for Hudson's. It perhaps helps that Wopat sings in the end credits. Wopat's song "Flying" is just simply his voice and an acoustic guitar but speaks beautifully to the film's themes about love and acceptance.

Not Rated but for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 32 mins.

Opens in Los Angeles on March 3 at the Laemmle Monica Film Center.
Available on DVD and VOD on March 14.


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