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Young gay man struggles after 'reparative' therapy in wrenching drama 'Fair Haven'

Young gay man struggles after 'reparative' therapy in wrenching drama 'Fair Haven'
Michael Grant in the film "Fair Haven." (Breaking Glass Pictures)

The often emotionally wrenching drama "Fair Haven" pushes back against the faulty practice of ex-gay conversion therapy without turning overly didactic or heavy-handed. It's a testament to Jack Bryant's lovely script and Kerstin Karlhuber's thoughtful direction that this controversial concept is handled with such even-handedness and grace.

Set in rural Vermont, the movie opens as 19-year-old James (Michael Grant), a handsome pianist, returns home from a stay at a Christian-based reparative therapy clinic led by a resolute doctor (Gregory Harrison, in unsettling flashbacks). Back at his family's longtime apple farm, Fair Haven, it's just James and his father, Richard (Tom Wopat), a sad, seemingly lost widower who sent James away to "change" and is now thwarting his son's plan to attend a Boston music college.

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James struggles with life on the ailing farm, the dispiriting prospect of community college and the romantic advances of a preacher's daughter (Lily Anne Harrison, Gregory's daughter), all while attempting to keep his distance from his ex-boyfriend, Charlie (Josh Green), a kindly guy still carrying a torch for James.

The palpable, yet guarded, longing here between James and Charlie added to the bucolic locale suggests a mini-"Brokeback Mountain," but with somewhat younger, less tragic men. The result is a stirring, well-acted, tenderly wrought story of fathers and sons — and sons and lovers.

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'Fair Haven'

No rating

Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica

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