Struggling with God and Love
Those of you who know me and those of you who follow my reviews know that I find the issues of religion and sexuality to be very important and I try to read and see whatever is new out there. One of the things that bother me so much is how quickly members of the LGBT community leave religion because they feel that there is no place for them there. I have always felt that is there is no place for me somewhere, I will make one. I just want to say that there is no such thing as no place. All you have to do is take a look at Ecclesiastes and you know that there “is a time and purpose under heaven” for all of us.
“The Seminarian” is the story of a gay man, a seminarian, who struggles in a troubled relationship and this leads him to question all that he knows about love and God. Ryan is in his final semester of his theological studies. His seminary has a hostile stance on homosexuality and so he cannot be himself. There are two other gay men in his class, Gerald and Anthony and Ryan confides in them but secretly. He is very close to his mother who is devout and has no idea that he is gay. In order to continue onto doctoral work, Ryan must finish a theological thesis and he has been writing on “The Divine Gift of Love”. At the same time, he has begun a relationship with Bradley, a guy he met online and who seems to lack the ability to commit. Needing to speak to someone, Ryan confides in Gerald and Anthony and discovers they are also struggling. With three like souls having a hard time, Ryan begins to see that God’s gift of love is not so divine. It becomes harder and harder for Ryan to finish his thesis on love when his religion tells him that what he feels is not love at all. He also feels that the chasm between mother and son is widening and how very hard it is to live with the truth.
Mark Cirillo as Ryan gives a wonderfully subtle performance and I predict that we shall be hearing more from him in the time to come. His facial expressions are brilliant and we feel what he feels. The film moves slowly and I am sure that is because we are to identify with the suppression of thoughts and the suppressed pain and claustrophobia that Ryan feels. As Ryan searches for both earthly and divine love, he makes the same mistakes that we all do but his search is so much more difficult because he is a theology students writing his thesis on love and not able to experience it himself.
His school is a rough place to be and when one of his friends thinks about putting up anti-gay posters all over the campus, he is hurt. Ryan is full of love and tries to share it but he finds that it is seldom returned. He had been chatting with Bradley (Eric Parker Bingham) on line for a year and when they two finally meet face to face, they are infatuated with each other…for a while. Suddenly Bradley clams up and Ryan later sees him on his computer and Ryan realizes that what he thought was there isn’t. Gerald (Matthew Hannon) explains to him that for Bradley he was just a toy, a trick. However we see that Gerald has his own reasons to get rid of Bradley and these complicate Ryan’s feelings that are already all mixed up. Ryan also sees his other friend, Anthony (Javier Montoya) struggling with the way he feels about two guys and this confuses him more. Ryan’s mother also adds to his confusion.
We see that even with all Ryan has going for him, he is a bit immature and he looks for love in places where there is none and he ends up even lonelier. He really wants to be in love but he does not have what it takes to be in a committed relationship. His relationship with God is similar to the way he pictures a relationship with someone else—both involve hurt and forgiveness. He is mixed up and when his thesis advisor speaks to him and tries to understand Ryan, he tells him to leave the gay feelings out of his writing but the advice came too late. Ryan then confides in one of his theological friends but his confidence was soon betrayed.
This is a quiet, slow movie that is undermined with a sense of uneasiness. It is powerful in the way it looks at homosexuality in the clergy and director Joshua Lim has really done a wonderful piece of work here in that he emphasizes the strengths of the evangelical movement while not harping on the weaknesses. Each scene of the movie is brilliantly thought out in this measured work of a young man who yearns to love.