Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party – Film Review

Initially I was bit apprehensive to watch this film because the premise had melodrama written all over it. It is billed as a film about a closeted teen in a devout christian family has a birthday party with a mix of his christian friends and non-christian friends. When I read the premise I thought it would just be another film about coming out, or being found out, in front of conservative parents, and the ramifications of that. In reality the film was much more subtle and complex. Below the photo I am going to spoil the hell out of this (religious pun intended). So if you don’t want to learn about the ending don’t read below the photo. I will add here that I found the film incredibly enjoyable. It touched on a lot of issues that I am interested in, and gave a nicely complex portrayal of aspects of American life.

Even thought the title of the film has the name of one of the characters in it, the film does not spend the majority of time on him. Actually the film divides its time fairly equally between the various characters in the film. This includes Henry’s parents, his teenage friends, adult friends and sister. Many of them have their own internal conflicts and various relationship troubles. Henry’s parents are moving apart due to his mother kissing a dying Pastor (her husband’s mentor). Henry’s sister is conflicted over a boy who she had sex with before marriage, but is ashamed of herself for doing so. Henry’s friends vary from wanting people they can’t have, their own homosexuality, and conflict between their religious beliefs and their desires to drink alcohol, or swim in a bathing suit, or tolerate behaviours that are not approved of by the church.

All of this tension sweeps across the film, and not all of it is resolved by the end. Henry’s sexuality, which I thought would be the main focus of the film, is just another undercurrent of the plot, and the ending isn’t an ending, but a beginning. Another odd aspect that we find out by the end of the film is that Henry’s parents already seem to know that he is gay, but neither of them have broached the topic with him. Then there is the more adult version of Henry. This is another character, the son of the former Pastor, who is also gay, but his homosexuality has wound up tight in him. He thinks it is sinful and in the film we see him always tense, and the main scene of the film is when he becomes locked in the bathroom and self-harms.

There are also some comic moments of the film, such as one of the teenage boys losing his virginity to an older women, and saying “god forgive me” with each thrust until she tells him to shut up. Overall it was a really good film. After watching it I regretted that I had put it off for so long, because it was really poorly advertised. I recommend watching it. It’s one of the best LGBT films I’ve seen in a while.

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