Tonight, I rented and watched a copy of Rock Haven. This movie is the tale of young man, Brady, who moves to a new town (I get the impression it’s actually a small island off the west coast based on clues from the movie). Brady is a quiet young boy raised in a conservative Christian environment, planning to head to Bible college at the end of summer. However, Brady’s plans and life become quite upset when he meets his new neighbor, the nineteen year old Clifford who comes from a non-traditional background (his mother appears to be a part of the New Age movement). As the movie progresses, the two boys become friends and fall in love. Indeed, the entire plot revolves around Brady’s struggle to come to terms with his feelings for Clifford in light of his faith.
Let me first say that as I’ve lived some aspects of Brady’s life, I am struggling not to be too critical of the movie. The writer, director, and actor set a monumental task for themselves by taking on the challenge of trying to portray this subject matter in a seventy eight minute movie. There is simply no way for them to truly portray the struggles — not to mention the intensity those struggles reach — in such a short amount of time. If I were to measure their portrayals against my own experiences without considering this fact, I would have to call the movie a complete failure. However, given the time constraints, I admit that they did a fair job.
I think that one of the things the movie did quite well was to demonstrate how lonely this struggle can be. As Brady first reacts poorly to Clifford’s advances, Brady realizes that the “problem” lies within himself and he feels drawn to Clifford despite what he believes about such attractions. And yet, he realizes that there is no one he can turn to. He suffers through this alone. Certainly, he goes to the pastor of his church a few times to discuss Clifford, but he takes care never to tell the pastor the whole truth. I recognized this self-editing and self-imposed isolation all too well and found myself thinking of my own past.
The movie also does well to demonstrate that this struggle ultimately affects everyone around Brady. Clifford finds himself facing a new challenge each time he comes into contact with his love. Brady’s mother confesses that she can feel the walls building between herself and her son. Even Peggy, the girl that Brady’s mother tries to fix him up with (with the help of Peggy’s own mother, of course) is the occasional target of Brady’s frustrations.
I did feel that the movie lost me after Brady and Clifford spent the night together. Perhaps it was because my own life took a different path (I actually clung to my first lover for dear life out of a sense of desperation), but Brady’s choice to seek help afterwards just seemed ill conceived to me. It seemed too unreal to me for Brady to lay in bed with another man and talk about being safe, yet turn around and decide to abandon his love and try counseling after a single conversation with his mother. Perhaps if the movie had done more to re-instill the sense of guilt over a couple more scenes, it would’ve made more sense to me.
I will say that the conflict between Brady and his mother was well done, (though not as well as the conflict between young Aaron Davis and his mother in Latter Days. The scene where the two talk in Brady’s bedroom after he announces he’s not going away to get help was truly touching and showed the pain of two people who love each other facing off from immovable points of view. Of course, I particularly loved the extra touch where Brady announced to his mother that he forgave her.
The other part I loved about the exchange was when his mother told him that he was making the biggest mistake of his life by staying. Brady simply responds by noting that he has already made the biggest mistake of his life (presumably letting Clifford fly to Barcelona to live with his father). I think most of us who went through a period of denying our sexuality can identify with those sentiments. I know that as I watched this movie, I found myself thinking of my teen years and what I might have done with them had I come out to myself sooner.