Monday, February 18, 2013

"The Falls": Two Mormon missionaries discover one another (but a slower film than "Latter Days")


It’s pretty obvious to compare Jon Garcia’s new film about gay Mormon missionaries, “The Falls” (2012, 89 minutes, Breaking Glass Pictures and QC Cinema) with “Latter Days” (2005, by C. J. Cox for Funnyboy Pictures, which I had seen at Reel Affirmations).
   
This new film is slower paced and “simpler” that the former one, and maybe a little pedantic. 

Nevertheless, the film presents the dilemma of modern  “organized” religion: it needs to recruit members and demand loyalty and  obedience to survive.  Sometimes these can be necessary things.

R.J. Smith (Nick Ferrucci) leaves his family in Idaho to go on his Mormon mission, which he (or his parents) pay for.  R.J. is about as solid and good looking a youth as any – until he meets his “Elder” companion, Chris (Benjamin Farmer).  They are put in a Spartan apartment near Portland, OR, in which they study and from which they go out and proselytize their faith.

That’s how a lot of modern people would see it.  A few decades ago, going door-to-door or approaching people on the street to sell anything, from insurance to a faith, was more accepted as the way things get done and even social capital gets built.  I do recall coworkers telling me about visits from Mormon missionaries back in the 1970s.

Chris seems to be the more assertive at first, but is also more easily tripped up by an alert “potential convert”.  Chris starts opening up a little about his true nature, and soon R.J. feels inclined to do the same.

About fifty minutes into the film, outdoors near railroad tracks, the first intimacies happen.

The Church supervision is intrusive, of course (Quinn Allan is quite prissy as “Elder Harris”) and the boys ‘get caught.  The consequences back home for RJ in the family and the church are handled with taste and some ambiguity. 

The website for the film is this.  

There is an interesting anecdote from one of the characters who, the pair visits (and eventually share "weed") about gays in the military during the war in Iraq.
   
  
The film points out that religious morality has two sides, like a chemistry equation to be balanced.  Righteous behavior isn’t just about avoiding sinful acts (for example, causing unwanted pregnancy); it’s also about carrying specific pre-existing obligations to appropriate the deepest aspects of one’s life (sexuality and expression) for ends defined by the community (or faith).  There is literally a moral obligation to become fit to marry and have children, in this world.  In fact, RJ's father, Mr. Smith (Harold Pillips) talks like the Mormon mission is supposed to make him more interested in women and marriage, a bizarre idea.  This is a community that believes it needs an authoritarian structure to survive.

A film about Mormon missionaries from the LDS point of view is “God’s Army” (2000), by Zion Films and Richard Dutcher.

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