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Flash Movie Review: Pray Away

THERE ARE TWO MEMORIES THAT ARE as vivid and fresh in my mind as when they occurred, when I was in kindergarten. I remember I was the only one in my class who was left-handed and there was only one student who had red hair. He stood out more than I did. His hair was the type of red that looked like flames, bright with an orange tint. There was a smattering of freckles across his face that looked like one of those connect the dot coloring books. He wasn’t the nicest of students but looking back I now may understand why. Rarely was he asked to come play with someone on the school’s playground. While students were playing tag or tossing a ball back and forth, he was sitting on the school’s stairs or on the ground with his back up against the playground fence. The other students, I do not want to say avoided him per se, would interact with him if they were together on an art project or at assembly. However, I think he was a loner not by choice but because of the students confused with his red hair. I know that sounds silly, but I cannot come up with another reason. Maybe kids did not like the way he looked; to me even back then that would be a ridiculous notion.      THE IDEA THAT A PERSON IS judged by their looks is something I find appalling. Back in that kindergarten class, I remember tearing up when the teacher was teaching the class how to use a pair of scissors to cut colored, construction paper. I saw the other kids were able to do it, but the scissors felt funny in my left hand when I held them the way the teacher told us. The boy sitting next to me asked me if I was dumb because I could not manipulate the scissors like the other kids. The tears were increasing in size, ready to fall out of my eyes. Luckily a girl on my other side showed me how I could cut paper using my left hand. From that incident, I have never forgotten what it feels like to be different. That red haired boy who stood out in class, me being a lefty and the girl who wore unusual clothes; we did not fit in the way people felt we should fit in. The arguments I hear about people’s looks or actions that they were born with are completely offensive in my opinion. What does it matter what two consenting adults feel for each other or someone has a different skin color? There is only one classification and that is human. Watching this documentary was a disturbing experience. I felt I was witnessing a crime.      A MOVEMENT FORMED THAT WAS RELIGIOUS based, that believed a person could pray away something they were born with. This group would try to make a person conform and fit in, no matter the cost and the cost was high. Directed by Kristine Stolakis (Where We Stand, The Typist), this was a startling revelation for me. I will do my best not to give much away, but I have a hard time with anyone who tries to convert someone to their own religion or control someone else’s body by creating laws or considers a person less than themselves because of their skin color. This was a powerful and frightening story. Though I was fully engaged in this movie, I wished they had devoted more time to the victim’s stories or should I say journeys. The impact would have been more powerful in my opinion. The scenes that had the sermons in front of the congregation were sad to me; all I saw was hatred for someone being different than themselves. I appreciated seeing the interviews with the individuals who came to terms with themselves and survived; however, it would have been interesting to talk about the ones that did not survive. Once again, we are all human.

3 ½ stars 

Flash Movie Review: Boy Erased

THE YOUNG MAN WAS SHARING HIS STORY with the audience on national television. In his words he was expressing how hard it was for him to get to this point, where he made it onto the dance show. He grew up in a tough neighborhood that had its share of crimes. Many of his classmates were already dealing drugs or doing other illegal activities; all he wanted to do was dance. He said he had been picked on and beaten up because of it. When the host asked what his parents thought about his dancing the young man said his Dad wanted a son who liked playing sports. I felt sad for this talented guy who struggled to do what he loved to do. His story reminded me of this couple I knew who had a little girl. The girl preferred playing with trucks and cars instead of her dolls. The parents were not exactly distraught, but you could tell they were concerned their daughter preferred “boy toys” instead of “girl toys.” Oh, and they were upset that the little girl hated wearing dresses. She would cry every time her parents would try to get her to wear a dress.     FROM THE TWO STORIES I JUST SHARED with you, can you find a common theme between the two? I will give you a minute to think about it. Ok time is up; let me tell you what I see. The young man and little girl did not have any issue with what they liked; the man loved to dance, and the girl preferred playing with trucks. The people around each of them had an issue with it. Hearing the man talk about his father wishing he was into sports bothered me. I feel a parent’s job is to love their child unconditionally; to nurture them to grow into kind, respectable, responsible adults. The father, I believe, is taking his prejudices and applying them to his son. Maybe I am assuming, but what I took away from the young man’s story was his Dad and neighborhood kids thought less of him, or maybe thought he was not masculine enough, because he was a dancer. The same can be applied to the parents of the little girl. They had a problem with their daughter not playing with toys associated in the past with a girl and not dressing the part. What a child is or chooses to do is not necessarily a reflection on their parents. It is similar to the parents in this heartbreaking, dramatic movie.      WHEN NANCY AND MARSHALL EAMONS, played by Nicole Kidman (The Beguiled, Lion) and Russell Crowe (The Nice Guys, The Water Diviner) discover their son is gay, the only thing they feel will solve the “problem” is to enroll their son Jared, played by Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea, Lady Bird), into a program that will convert him to a heterosexual. Jared agreed to participate; he wanted to please his parents. Based on a true story, this film was written and directed by Joel Edgerton (Loving, It Comes at Night) who also starred as Victor Sykes. Most of you know I find Nicole to be a gifted actress and for the time she was on screen, she was dynamite. For the small body of work Lucas has done already, he too is a gifted actor. The script based on the biography was well written, despite a couple of areas that could have used more explanation. As for the topic, I looked on in disbelief that anyone would even consider such a preposterous idea about conversion therapy. But looking underneath the surface, the lack of acceptance upon finding out about their son was sad to see. This was a powerful and thought provoking picture.

 

3 ½ stars   

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