________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 8. . . .October 23, 2009

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Cure for Love.

Franine Pelletier (Director). Christina Willings (Writer & Co-director). Christina Willings (Earth to Sky Pictures Producer). Bonnie Thompson (NFB Producer). Nancy Laing (Earth to Sky Pictures Executive Producer). David Christensen (NFB Executive Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2008.
59 min., 4 sec., DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: 153C 9108 143.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Frank Loreto.

**** /4

   

Cure for Love is an excellent film that will most certainly generate a good deal of discussion and could possible offend many.

     The film opens with the wedding preparations of Brian and Ana. Like all weddings, there is much activity and anticipation preceding the actual ceremony. Both bride and groom appear excited. As the preparations take place, Brian and Ana talk about their relationship, how they met, and Ana describes when Brian proposed. All of this is pretty typical wedding stuff and seems very sweet.

     However, both Brian and Ana are members of the Living Hope Youth Forum, an Evangelical Christian ministry that denies homosexuality as a reality. Rather, it is, “a disorder - SSAD same sex attraction disorder.” With prayer and hard work, this “disorder” can be overcome and man and woman can be joined together as man and wife. Brian explains, “As I read the Bible, homosexuality is not His design for humanity” He admits that he is concerned about being able to “make sex happen” as he and Ana have been celibate thus far. About Brian’s proposal, Ana says that they “knew each other’s issues, and he was too cool to not take a chance on. So I did, and here we are.” Both met in 1999, on the on-line forum hosted by the Living Hope ministry.

     The wedding ceremony is much like any other except at the exchange of vows, the minister has them state that they “would rather die than break these vows” as “the goal of marriage is not happiness, but faithfulness” Brian and Ana are “ex-gays,” members of an expanding network of store-front ministries. These focus on religious gays who are in conflict between their religion and their orientation.

     Jonathan, a guest at the wedding is also a member of Living Hope. After the wedding, he and three friends went on a trip without the blessing of Ricky Chelette, the founder of Living Hope. As a result, Jonathan found himself cut off from the group. Chelette, with tears flowing down his cheeks, says that he still loves and prays for him, but has removed Jonathan from the on-line forum.

     Jonathan tells his story: “I wish I was able to communicate effectively how good I was at hating myself”. He felt “a profound sense of shame for his life - how God found him disgusting.” He looked to the ex-gay ministry to try to find a solution to make him “unmiserable to God.” He explains how his father took him aside when he was six-years-old and had him accept Jesus as his saviour. However, Jonathan’s life was tortured at best. He took to cutting phrases like, “I am sad.” “I hate me” and “Not man enough” into his body. “Razors, steak knives, meat scissors satisfied for awhile” Cutting released the pressure he was under. However, at one point, he planned to castrate himself and take an overdose of anti-psychotic drugs in the hopes that he would either die or end up in the hospital where someone could make decisions for him. Jonathan was tortured inside. The split between himself, God, and sexuality made him feel, as an evangelical, that he must end his life. This made no sense to him.

     Once outside the ministry, Jonathan became a Christian Quaker where issues were less about theological dogma and more on peace efforts and social justice. He met a man and within a week “the depression fell away. Therapies and medications for years did nothing like this.” His former church was “okay with him as long as he was opposed to being gay” He had been trained to see himself as “pathological, a misfit.” That seems to be behind him now as he appears to be quite happy. He says, “The marvellous sensation of loving someone and feeling that love in return, there’s nothing like it.” Then he flashes a big smile and says, “It’s the sweetest thing I know.” No perfect ending for Jonathan though. His family is “decimated by where he is now” One brother said goodbye to him over the phone and said, “I’ll never see you again.” Jonathan says his family is wrong. He now loves himself in a way he was never free to love himself before: “That component of me that drives me to love another man is not filthy. It’s just another gift”.

     Darren, one of Brian’s groomsmen also belonged to the ex-gay ministry. For seven years, he tried to convince himself that he could not be gay because he was a Christian. He tried to suppress his desires and follow Jesus. This decision made him feel good for maybe two months, and then he found himself depressed and lonely. In the preaching against homosexuality, gays were presented as promiscuous men. Since Darren was not sexually active, this rang false to him. Was he not gay because “he was afraid of going to hell?” He admits that fear prevented him from entering into a relationship with anyone.

     At 27, he kissed his first man. When asked how it felt, he beams and says, “Fantastic!” In place of the condemnation from God that he expected, he felt acceptance instead. Darren has also met someone, but this potential partner, also an evangelical, has not come as far along in his journey as Darren has. His family is still unaware of his sexual orientation. Darren is saddened as he feels they could be a couple. How he sees faith now is “vastly different.”

     Brian’s journey also had difficulties. At one point, he tried to throw out his faith as it was too difficult live within. Because his parents were actively involved in their church, he started living two lives: good Brian, and the other one who was angry and hurting, angry at God and gay. When he could not take any more, he found the sharpest knife and planned to slash his wrists in the sink. However, just before he began, the phone rang. There was no one on the other end, but Brian sees that as a call from God. From that point, he believed that homosexuality and Christianity could not mix.

     A year has passed since Brian and Ana’s wedding. Brian has been speaking at conferences held by Exodus International and Exodus Global Alliance (Canada). Their mission is to promote freedom from homosexuality. Brian is enthusiastic about speaking. He met Ana at such a conference, and this one boasts of 1600 attendees. Exodus uses behaviour modification and reparative therapy and prayer to neutralize unwanted same-sex attraction. Brian admits that he still is attracted to men. “That’s a reality.” He makes no fake promises. Those who come to the ministry thinking they will lose their attraction are wrong. The “success” rate for Exodus is 30%. Jonathan still feels a bond with the Exodus community as he felt comfort in the group, “but they are not free. 70% will bail into a life of misery.”

     Brian appears content with his life choice. Near the film’s end, he and Ana entertain Jonathan and his partner at dinner. He acknowledges that one can be Christian and be in a gay relationship. While he questions their interpretation of scripture, he does not question their devotion. Ana also disagrees with their choices but states that it is not her job to decide on this. However, it saddens her that people she loves will not be going to heaven.

     Cure for Love is subtly told. There is no narrator. The characters tell their own stories. Clearly Jonathan and Darren’s stories are meant to show the damage that the ex-gay ministry is doing or has done. However, Brian is such a likeable person that one cannot condemn his life choice. He does not seem unhappy.

     Cure for Love is is a powerful film that will no doubt cause no end to discussions. Evangelicals may take offence, but then there is something in this film to offend almost everyone. The title, Cure for Love, comes from Leonard Cohen’s song which is featured in the film. However, the actual title is There Ain’t No Cure for Love. In that case, this film is clearly an attack on the ex-gay movement and sees it doing great damage.

     The film would provide excellent material for discussion in Psychology, Family Studies, or Religion, but know your audience as this film is a bit of a powder keg.

Highly Recommended.

Frank Loreto is a teacher-librarian at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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