akroeker’s review published on Letterboxd:
TIFF 2018 #7/10:
i was incredibly disappointed by this film. while the subject matter is important and harrowing, the movie itself is bland and emotionless. the movie, while trying to convey a very important social message, chose to do so not through the characters, and that, to me, is what hindered the movie.
the characters are so flat. there's nothing to them. they're just spewing dialogue that's probably supposed to make the audience feel something (sadness, compassion, anger), but it's so heavy handed it comes across as detached preaching. the true story is, in itself, is a beautiful and tragic one, and would hit home with a lot of viewers without the excessive "im gonna explain to the audience now why this is bad and why this should make everyone upset". it felt like joel edgerton was trying really hard to make the perfect drama for the oscars, and in that he lost what would have made the story effecting--well rounded characters with histories and emotions that were actually explored.
i hate to compare it to "the miseducation of cameron post" which came out a month ago, but it's hard not to when the movies have such similar stories and many of the same plot points. but what worked with "miseducation", the subtlety, the focus on cameron coming into her own and rejecting the disturbing therapy she was receiving at the conversion school, was exactly what this movie was missing. this movie takes such an objective and detached look at its protagonist and their personal journey that it feels like nothing more than a shallow attempt to get some tears from the audience.
that's not to say that one story is more important than the other, or that the efforts made for this movie weren't commendable, it's just that it was trying so hard to be something it didn't have to try to be. the story itself was moving enough to not require the lengthy speeches and multitude of one dimensional characters meant to reflect society. joel edgerton should've trusted the material, and his audience, enough to let the natural emotion of the story prevail over his need to force an audience to react in a way that he wanted them to, or thought that they should.
the only thing i really came out of this movie liking was the performances, especially from nicole and lucas (although that's no surprise, they're always so reliably wonderful on screen).
anyways y'all, i realize im in the minority and i still heavily encourage everyone to see this movie. the subject matter is still very important and conversion therapy is still a disgusting institution that plagues america!!! thanks for (not) reading my rant.