'Henry Gamble's Birthday Party'
A thoughtful if slightly strained coming-of-age drama 
A 17-year-old boy comes to grips with his sexuality during an emotionally charged birthday party in this film written and directed by Stephen Cone.
Filmmaker Stephen Cone mixes religious and sexual themes to provocative effect in his coming-of-age story set during a single fateful day. Beginning with a scene in which two teenage boys wake up in bed together after a sleepover and proceed to discuss penis size and engage in a mutual masturbation session, Henry Gamble's Birthday Party is destined to raise a few eyebrows. The film was recently screened at the BAMcinemaFest.
Henry, celebrating his 17th birthday, is clearly struggling with his sexuality, under high stakes conditions since his father is an evangelical pastor at a suburban megachurch. Henry's not the only member of his family with personal issues: His mother is deeply unhappy in her marriage, and his sister returning home after her freshman year at college, is torn between her religious beliefs and the dizzying freedom of the secular world.
The guests at the birthday pool party include a wide assortment of characters including Henry's friends from both school and church as well as several adult members of his father's congregation. The presence of the frolicking youngsters adds a sexual frisson to the proceedings, not-so-subtly illustrated by the filmmaker when one of the adult men stares at the nubile, bikini-clad young women, followed by a close-up of his crotch.
Tensions inevitably rise to the surface during the long day, including one middle-aged female church member delivering an impassioned lecture on the evils of sex trafficking. There's also the disturbing presence of an emotionally fragile young man who apparently attempted suicide recently and who later performs a horrifying act of self-mutilation.
The young teens also engage in much spirited banter even as Henry becomes uncomfortable in his interactions with a male classmate who's clearly attracted to him.
The filmmaker, the son of a Southern Baptist pastor, explored similar themes in his critically acclaimed indie feature The Wise Kids.  (hollywoodreporter.com)

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