Mormons -- and more specifically, gay Mormons -- are definitely having a moment. First in line was a 2003 film, "Latter Days," which featured an incredibly hunky missionary let loose in the wilds of West Los Angeles. More recently, the closeted missionary in the Broadway mega-hit "The Book of Mormon" gets his own number, "Turn It Off."
If Mitt Romney or any of his hunky sons got it on during their missionary years, we probably won’t hear about it, alas. Until then, we can console ourselves with this latest entrant.
For gay audiences, it’s going to be way too easy to spot where "The Falls" is going from the first time the dark-eyed, raven-haired R.J. (Nick Ferrucci) meets his blond elder and roommate (Benjamin Farmer). Even if we know early on that these two are going to give new meaning to "missionary position," that doesn’t negate this small, delicate film’s impact.
Director Jon Garcia, obviously constrained by a tight budget (if any), manages to use the Portland, Ore., locations to good effect. For what was a regional production, the acting is far above passable, especially Ferrucci, who shines in the final scenes, when he must confront the disconnect between his belief system and his sexual identity.
What’s especially satisfying about the film’s trajectory is that the course of the two young men’s affair seems so organic. What could have been forced or didactic falls into place. From the way the two approach their door-knocking duties, it’s clear they both harbor plenty of doubts about Joseph Smith’s revelations.
Well-scrubbed, clean-cut and physically fit (no booze, drugs, nicotine or even coffee will do that to you), Mormon missionaries have pride of place in the pantheon of guilty gay pleasures. If "The Falls" partakes a teensy bit in the fantasy we all have of ripping off that crisp white shirt and rep tie, it has a lot more than that going for it.
The Church of Latter Day Saints is still reeling from criticism for its having been the main backer on California’s Proposition 8. Gay Mormons, their friends, families and sympathizers are putting considerable pressure on the church to change its antediluvian stance.
Church elders, of course, has been known to have convenient revelations from God in the past (polygamy, black skin as the "mark of Cain"). Although it’s doubtful many faithful Mormons will risk eternal damnation by watching "The Falls," for the rest of us, the film presents a powerful testimony to the gut-wrenching problems faced by those who are born into a strict faith that refuses to accept them for who they are.
Maybe, just maybe, dramatic works like this will help move the church toward a more reasoned stance.