Last night, PJ and I watched Rock Haven, a 2007 film about a nerdy Christian boy who falls in love with another boy when he and his mother move to the community of Rock Haven, California. Here’s the trailer:

The movie was written and directed by David Lewis and stars Sean Hoagland as Brady, the closeted Christian. Brady and his mother are devoutly religious, and Brady is more than a little nerdy — he loves playing trivia games and looking at the stars through his telescope, for example. But then he meets Clifford, a hot nineteen-year-old who likes to sun bathe on the beach.

Owen Alabado plays Clifford as a mixture of shyness and self-confidence. He’s spent most of his life in boarding schools. This has made him shy about his sexuality, but he’s also independent and self-assured in other areas of his life. He and Brady start hanging out together and most of the first half of the film is about the two of them falling in love, the first time for each.

These new feelings, of course, cause problems for Brady, who can’t reconcile his sexuality to his religious beliefs. Consequently, he spends most of the film getting close to Clifford and then pushing him away and then repeating this process again.

Overall, I really liked this movie. First off, the cinematography in this film is really beautiful. Christian Bruno does an excellent job capturing the beauty of the coastline, the ocean, and the two boys.

Hoagland is also really good. He balances Brady’s nerdiness with his forbidden  desire really well. His Brady is pretty innocent and naive too, which probably wouldn’t work in most movies — you’d end up wanting to slap him. But in a coming out movie about Christianity, it felt fairly realistic and believable.

My one criticism of his casting in this movie is that he clearly works out and has muscles, as you can see in this still from the film (he’s on the right, with the pants and the great treasure trail):

The movie should have added something to explain why Brady would be so fit. Make him a jogger or something. As is, it doesn’t quite add up. If this guy is such a nerd, he probably wouldn’t be so buff. (Stills from the rest of this scene are also on the internet — both guys get naked and show everything, as I’ll talk about in a minute.)

Alabado is also believable in his role. His is some ways a more thankless role — he’s not the one coming out and dealing with his sexuality. He could just stand around and be desirable, but Alabado imbues Clifford with a likability that is important for the film. We don’t just want Brady to come out, we want these two characters to end up together. I think the burden of making us want that lies on Alabado’s shoulders.

I also like that this movie takes religion seriously. It doesn’t make any of its characters stupid or turn them into caricatures — or at least doesn’t egregiously do so. It really wants to explore how someone who is gay could try to reconcile his sexuality to his religious beliefs. I definitely respect this even if I don’t share that belief system.

I also like this film’s treatment of Clifford’s and Brady’s first time together. The lead up and culmination of their first time together is both sweet and really sexy.

I was surprised by the film’s inclusion of full frontal nudity during this scene. These guys are hot, but more than that I was impressed again by the realism of the scene. Despite the nudity, it’s not a porn version of someone’s first time. It’s sweet, romantic, and slightly awkward. (There’s an earlier scene in which Brady jerks off in the shower after first seeing Clifford. It too is well done.)

My only other criticism of the movie is its soundtrack. The music crosses over into afterschool special land too often. I think sometime less intrusive would have worked better.

The ending of the movie was also a little disappointing — not because where it ends up but because of how it gets there. It too is trying to be realistic, but how it gets there just isn’t. In a way, it’s a bit of a deus ex machina kind of ending, but overall I guess I didn’t mind too much. This movie doesn’t break new ground as far as coming out movies are concerned, but it’s definitely worth watching. I recommend it.