Posted by: on Friday, January 23rd, 2009 to Movie Madness

In “Prayers for Bobby,” an original production from Lifetime Television, Sigourney Weaver plays Mary Griffith, an overly religious mother who goes on a journey of acceptance after she inadvertedly causes her gay son to commit suicide.

Based on the 1995 book of the same name by Leroy Aarons, itself based on a true story, the movie explores how Mary disapproves of her son’s sexual orientation and tries to change him through prayer and psychiatry. After his death, she questions her faith and eventually becomes an advocate for gay rights.

Narrowing down this tragic story and the many good things that resulted from it, into a mere 90 minutes isn’t easy, and at times, the film does feel very TV movie (the commerical break fade-outs are painfully obvious). But, some clichéd dialogue aside, Katie Ford‘s script has many powerful moments and in its second half, becomes especially heart-wrenchingly emotional. Yes, the movie is often hard to watch and Mary’s grief and suffering will bring tears to even the coldest heart.

While the film is set in the 70s, it is still as relevant today. True, twenty-six years ago, when Bobby committed suicide, there were very few options for young gays and lesbians. While this has changed through time, even if Bobby were living today, it’s unlikely his life would be any easier, as the recent passing of Prop 8 so brutally tells us. That’s because he never found acceptance within his own family and, especially, from his mother, whose fundamentalism told her that her son was a sinner and would burn in hell unless he resisted “temptation.” Bobby did try to change who he was for her, but realized it was slowly killing him and couldn’t take it anymore.

What makes this film so powerful, and helps it rise above the average Lifetime movie, is the acting. Weaver, a Golden Globe winner and three-time Oscar nominee, delivers a powerful, poignant performance in her TV debut, a performance already being deemed Emmy-worthy. She brings so much dimension to a role that could easily have been played as a caricature as Mary goes through an incredibly challenging character arc from intolerant Christian to guilt-ridden mother to gay rights activist.

Ryan Kelley also does a terrific job portraying the range of emotions and thoughts that overwhelm Bobby, both while he is trying to live up to his mother’s beliefs, and later, when he is finally able to briefly free himself from family to discover who he is and ultimately realize his mother would never accept him. The scene of Bobby’s suicide is especially gut-wrenching.

In supporting roles, Henry Czerny is fantastic as the Mary’s husband, Bob Griffith; Austin Nichols is nicely subtle as Bobby’s older brother; and openly gay actor Dan Butler gives a gentle performance as the Metropolitan Community Church preacher who helps Mary on her way to tolerance.

There may be some flaws in Prayers for Bobby, but that doesn’t mean it won’t kick its audience in the emotional gut. Some awkward dialogue aside, the film is a universal story of a child trying to please a parent, and of a parent who learns that what she wants isn’t necessarily best for her child. People will have alot to learn from this.

This is a film everyone should see. Please tell family, friends, and all those in between to watch. It might change lives. For more information on the film, or to send feedback to filmmakers, visit the movie’s website.

Prayers for Bobby will play three times on Lifetime: Saturday, January 24, 9-11 PM; Sunday, January 25, 8-10 PM; and Tuesday, January 27, 9-11 PM.

11 Responses to “ TV Review: Prayers for Bobby ”

  1. Bravo Fred Turd, Bravo!!!

  2. hey coacha thank you so much for posting this article….i can’t wait to see this movie it means a lot to the gay community.

  3. Sounds great, can’t wait to see it!

  4. I totally agree with this reveiw, nice job. I was completely inspired by this movie and I even prayed thanks to God for showing me such an inspirational thing. For the most part, I cried throughout the whole second half of the movie, starting from when Bobby jumps off the bridge. But this may just be because I’m a total sap when it comes to movies like this, haha. I would reccomend this to absolutely anyone. I hope that this movie touched others’ hearts as it did mine. I was not expecting such a great performance from a made for tv movie. Thanks!

  5. to the film maker what a good job the story was told in a great light as a gay man who did what my parents wanted me to do it took me 20yrs to be a gay proud man and i have two grown children who are very supportive in my life and they are a part of a international organization were they are raising money for those in need and i for got to say my father is very supportive of me and my husband of 6yrs thank again i look forward to seeing the movie again allen townsendfrom fridley mn

  6. I saw this on DVD two nights ago and I am still devasted. The forst half is VERY made-for-TV cheesy but the second half just kicks you in the gut. A great film everyone should see.

  7. Prayers for Bobby has truly made a huge difference in my life.  I have been very secular and I’ve distanced myself from God because of this paradox between religion and LGBT people; a problem common among many faiths including my Mormon upbringing. 

    The film takes a complete and heartfelt examination on this tension and beautifully resolves with an inspiring conclusion.  I want to believe wholeheartedly that the message conveyed is true, or at the very least that God equally loves and supports gay people in their lives.  But…I am always filled with doubt and wonder endlessly how to live my life.  Not to mention the courage it will take to come out to my family and friends.  I think for the time being, I’ll seek out a gay friendly church, and continue to search for truth and goodness in my life. 

    Again, I am so glad I came across this film and although I am filled with many uncertainties, I look forward with definite hope.

  8. Beautiful vocabulary! Inspiring pro each one

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