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.
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.
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica