Cure for Love

by James McNally on May 24, 2009

in Documentaries

Cure for Love

Cure for Love (Directors: Francine Pelletier and Christina Willings): I first heard about this doc­u­mentary almost a year ago, and excitedly wrote to the film­makers asking for a copy. To my shame, I’ve had that copy for almost eight months and am only now get­ting around to it. Although it was an inquis­itive email from one of the dir­ectors that jolted me into action, I’m happy that my review also coin­cides with the end of the Inside Out fest, which I’ve just been too busy to cover, des­pite my best intentions.

Cure for Love begins cryptic­ally with a wed­ding cere­mony between a self-described gay man and his les­bian friend. Brian and Ana ori­gin­ally met online through the Living Hope Youth Forum, a bul­letin board for evan­gel­ical young people strug­gling with same-sex attrac­tion. In gen­eral, the evan­gel­ical sub­cul­ture frowns upon homo­sexu­ality and con­siders its expres­sion a sin. Many min­is­tries have cropped up to help people to curb their desires and Living Hope is just one example of these so-called “ex-gay” min­is­tries. This film intro­duces us to Brian and Ana, as well as to two other friends who met through Living Hope. John and Darren end up taking a dif­ferent journey than their friends, each embra­cing their sexu­ality while attempting to hang onto their faith. This film very sens­it­ively listens to its sub­jects as they describe their pain and their efforts at resolving the very real con­flicts within themselves.

John’s story is maybe the most affecting for me. This incred­ibly intel­li­gent and artic­u­late man describes how in high school he would cut phrases like “not man enough” and “I hate me” into his arms with knives in order to fend off more ser­ious thoughts of sui­cide. He describes being put on anti-psychotic med­ic­a­tion and seeking help from various “ex-gay” min­is­tries such as Living Hope and Exodus. He finally comes to the con­clu­sion that there must be some­thing wrong with a set of reli­gious beliefs that in the end led him to try to des­troy him­self. Even so, he care­fully exam­ines bib­lical and theo­lo­gical evid­ence to help him accept who he is and to enjoy a romantic rela­tion­ship with another man.

Darren also becomes uncom­fort­able with the teaching of groups like Exodus. In their founders’ stories of anonymous sex and rampant promis­cuity, Darren fails to find any­thing resem­bling his own story. He admits that he never even kissed a man until he was 27, and that instead of feeling dirty, he felt incred­ibly free. It’s painful to watch him recount how he had to pull back from a rela­tion­ship with a man he clearly loves because that man had not yet been able to accept his own homosexuality.

Cure for Love

Brian and Ana are per­haps the most enig­matic. Ana seems unhappy but resigned to a mar­riage she describes as “like having a room­mate for life.” Her unyielding view of what she thinks the Bible teaches about homo­sexu­ality will not let her change her mind, even as she and Brian visit with their old friend John and his new boy­friend Chris. Brian seems to be making the best of it. His “suc­cessful” mar­riage has given him new oppor­tun­ities to speak at churches and “ex-gay” min­istry con­fer­ences and he seems to enjoy these rewards enough to stop short of where John and Darren have gone. Maybe the prestige and sense of com­munity he enjoys is enough to sub­limate his desire for a real romantic and sexual rela­tion­ship. It’s Ana for whom I feel the most, since she’s not enjoying the same sense of reward or fulfillment.

Although dir­ectors Willings and Pelletier do occa­sion­ally bring in rep­res­ent­at­ives of some “ex-gay” and “ex-ex-gay” groups, I appre­ci­ated that they kept the focus very tightly on this small group of friends. Because they’re friends who have reached dif­ferent con­clu­sions, their attempts to remain close pro­ject a sense of dis­com­fort that makes you hurt for everyone involved. Cure for Love takes a very sens­itive approach to a com­plex inter­sec­tion of sub­cul­tures, and suc­ceeds in showing its sub­jects as real human beings.

It will be showing at the Frameline San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival on June 20 and at Vancouver’s Queer Film Festival in August, but this is the sort of doc­u­mentary that really needs a tele­vi­sion broad­cast or some other way to reach a much wider audi­ence. I sin­cerely hope it gets that opportunity.

9/10(9/10)

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