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Directorial debut depicts journey from small-town repression to acceptance.
By Bradley Donalson
Kerstin Karlhuber’s directorial debut with Fair Haven comes at an opportune moment when the LGBT community is grappling with “Trump’s America” and the discriminatory attitudes that have resurfaced. It touches on themes that resonate in this intolerant political climate: anti-LGBT repression and the harm that occurs when people try to cut away the things that other people don’t want to deal with.
19-year-old James Grant (Michael Grant) is finally returning home from an ex-gay conversion program and is forced to deal with his inept but well-meaning father (Tom Wopat), an awkward dating setup with the local pastor’s daughter, Suzy (Lily Ann Harrison), and unavoidably, his ex-boyfriend Charlie (Josh Green). Throw in a couple of flashbacks to his “mentor” from the ex-gay program, Doctor Gallagher (Gregory Harrison), who can wield a platitude and twist logic with the worst of them, and you have a recipe for trouble.
It is James’ interactions with the people in his life that give the film depth. The viewer might struggle with the slow pacing and awkward tension between the characters during the early scenes, but it eventually becomes clear that this is intentional. James’ long pauses before speaking belie his internal struggles and the memories of conversations he had with his “counselor.” He does exactly what is expected of him (with almost no emotion) until he starts to interact with Charlie.
When the ex-boyfriends first reconnect, James is angry and hostile as he tries to break out of the drudgery that is his new life. Charlie speaks to him multiple times, slowly breaking through the shell of self-hatred and repression that James has built around himself. But it is after Charlie is hurt that James begins to show true emotion and become a dynamic character. Seeing that the person he has feelings for has been hurt finally drives James to open up and quit repressing himself.
In the end, this film is less about a love story and more about the journey that this boy must take to stop repressing himself and finally become the man he is supposed to be.
Fair Haven is now available on VOD and DVD from Breaking Glass Pictures (bgpics.com).
Bradley Donalson is a frequent contributor to OutSmart.