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Films explore troubled family relationships

By Leonard Heldreth
The films this month includes a conflict that affects a writer and his talented wife, and an exploration of gay conversion therapy.

THE WIFE

Swedish director Björn Runge’s film, The Wife, explores the dynamics of a long-time marriage in which the wife has the talent but the husband has the fame. Based on Meg Wolitzer’s 2003 novel, the wife, Joan Castleman (Glenn Close), and the husband, Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce), play a couple whose circumstances have added new stress to a marriage already under several strains.
The new stress is that Joe has just won the Nobel Prize for literature, and although both are pleased at this event (they jump up and down on the bed), the additional scrutiny and fame forces them to reconsider the roles they have played for many years. Joe has been the important public figure, and Joan has been the supporting wife who is always there to do all the things that Joe has no time for, like taking care of his health and picking up after himself. Joe manages to squeeze in time for dalliances with younger women, an activity that Joan has taught herself to ignore (a dalliance with Joan, in fact, led to Joe’s first divorce)…

BOY ERASED

Boy Erased is based on Garrard Conley’s memoir of the same title; Joel Edgerton adapted the memoir, acts in the film, and directed it. Jared Eamons, a college student, confesses to his father that he has doubts about his sexual orientation, and they agree that he should try gay conversion therapy. Although there are no standard programs, since it’s not a recognized psychological therapy, most programs seem to be a combination of twelve-step AA, religious dogma, dubious science, and physical stress. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have outlawed conversion therapy, which still leaves a lot of young people vulnerable.
The film follows Lucas Hedges’s first few days at the Love in Action program until he finally sees through the hokum and, with his mother’s help, escapes. One of the strongest aspects of the film is the struggle that each of his parents have with accepting him…
(All films reviewed are available as DVDs from local stores.)

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