1:30 p.m. Oct. 14
Main Art Theatre, Royal Oak
Reel Pride Film Festival
If ever there was a way to conquer homosexuality, “Rock Haven” has it: Washing the hell out of it. Sure, it doesn’t work for 18-year-old Brady (newcomer Sean Hoagland), who scrubs his arm like he’s Shout-ing out an ink stain from his jeans, but it’s worth a shot.
He also desperately tries to charm a young lady, resulting in an abrupt and awkward moment of making-out. He visits the house of God to rid him of his homo feelings. Still, there’s no soap, no woman, or no amount of Hail Marys that can wash away his feelings. And now, he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. Literally.
Brady spends time sorting out his supposedly un-God-like behavior while walking along a rocky California shoreline. When the sheepish devout Christian is caught eyeing his new witty neighbor Clifford (Owen Alabado) as he sunbathes on the sand, Brady flees faster than a fly threatened by a swatter.
Their first couple of convos consist of awkward moments. Like their initial encounter, where Brady comes thisclose to talking to him but falls to pieces – and on his face when he trips over Clifford’s leg. After a series of run-ins at the beach, the guys’ relationship blooms. Brady’s not sure how to handle his feelings, so naturally he represses them. That is, until he and Clifford spend more and more time together.
But Clifford, a lah-dee-dah non-traditionalist, obviously wants to jump Brady’s bones – and later does in a delicately-shot scene sparked with fiery passion. And Brady, deep down, shares those feelings, as revealed in a shower scene where he’s touching himself. With Clifford on his mind.
What’s admirable about director David Lewis’ film is Clifford’s understanding of Brady’s torn situation. Sure, the carefree lad is frustrated that Brady’s hesitant to get closer to him, but he still admires him for taking this journey despite his religious beliefs. And he’s inquisitive when Brady buys him a Bible – and not just because he wants to get the snake out of the cage.
With striking seascapes and a mostly on-note cast – save the unbelievable priest who likes to stare blankly and rest his hand on Brady’s shoulder (OK, so maybe that’s a bit believable when considering Brady’s boyish looks) – Lewis’ work tells a overdone story with some success.
The scenes Brady shares with his mom aren’t always convincing or affecting, especially when she confronts him on being ashamed of his Christian belief – and when she urges him to tell a female date she’s a pretty girl. But the last few moments are genuine and, perhaps, almost as effective as an earlier dialogue between Brady and the chick he’s trying desperately to fall for.
What could’ve been a budding relationship between the priest and Brady, though, is nothing more than a useless tool to make us think that his blah-blah-blah talk helps the confused boy in his search to surrender his fear. Walking around aimlessly on the beach seems to have more of an impact on him than the wooden performance from the way-too-liberal priest.
Even he doesn’t seem to be as hardcore-Christian as Brady’s mother. And there’s no better indication of this than the large reprint of “The Last Supper” hanging above their kitchen table. Or when Brady tells his mom she needs to get out more and she responds with: “My hands are full with the Lord’s work.”
The young men’s mothers are like day and night. Whereas Brady’s seems to be pals with the Almighty – and she’s close-minded and eager to set-up her son with a female counterpart – Clifford’s is the mom every gay guy wishes for. She’s a faith-driven liberal who talks freely about her son’s romantic menscapades – even if it means going a bit overboard when asking Brady if they’ve screwed.
“Sex is serious business,” she tells Brady.
And with the exception of some wisecracks – mostly courtesy of Clifford and his hip mom – so is “Rock Haven.” Though it doesn’t take any leaps, twists or turns, the coming-of-age story provides a carefully-crafted character study about a young Christian who tries to ‘fess up to his man-loving feelings.
Sure, its acting and story are rocky in parts, but at least Lewis doesn’t try to rely on cheap gimmicks – like penis! penis! penis! – to pique our interest in this already-told tale. He just hopes to suck us in with a sweet story. And sometimes, that’s enough.