The Falls: Testament of Love (Breaking Glass Pictures, NR)

The-Falls-Testament-of-Love 75Like The Falls, Testament of Love has the feel of a modestly-budgeted television production that succeeds thanks to its sincerity and the likeability of its lead actors.

The-Falls-Testament-of-Love 500

The Falls: Testament of Love is a sequel to the 2012 film The Falls, which introduced us to RJ (Nick Ferrucci) and Chris (Benjamin Farmer), two sincere and very handsome young Mormon missionaries who fall in love and have a brief physical relationship. As homosexual behavior is strictly out of bounds according to the Latter-day Saints Church (as is any sexual relationship outside heterosexual marriage), this is a problem, and they take opposite routes in solving it. Chris chooses the Church, RJ his sexual identity, and they (apparently) go their separate ways.

Or did they? Most of the story in Testament of Love takes place five years after The Falls, but director/screenwriter Jon Garcia sets it up with a brief recap of their mission relationship, which was followed by a post-mission road trip of several months spent, apparently, in blissful and accepting love. In RJ’s mind, they were going to continue their relationship, but Chris once again chooses to stay within the LDS Church, which requires renouncing his attraction to RJ and the possibility of same-sex relationships in general.

Jumping forward to the present time, RJ and Chris meet cute at a funeral for Rodney, a pot-smoking Iraq Vet they met during their mission. By this point, their lives have diverged sharply: Chris is married to Emily (Hannah Barefoot), has a three-year-old daughter, and lives in a palatial house in Salt Lake City (he works in pharmaceutical sales), while RJ is in a monogamous relationship with Paul (Thomas Stroppel), and works as an arts journalist in Seattle. Chris is formal and brusque with RJ, and you know what that means — that old demon of same-sex attraction that Chris has tried so hard to deny is still there, and it’s about to upend both their lives.

One aspect of Testament of Love I particularly like is its willingness to show that pretending to be something or someone you are not is a dangerous game that may hurt not just you, but a lot of other people as well. This is a fact of life that sometimes gets left out of love stories (gay, straight, or otherwise) — it’s normal to sympathize with the desires of the protagonists in a story, but in the grown-up world of serious relationships, part of what you give up is the right to act like you’re the only one that matters. Similar, this film doesn’t hold back from portraying the material rewards that may demand conformity as a prerequisite and the influence that such incentives may play in an individual’s decision to conform or not conform.

Like The Falls, Testament of Love has the feel of a modestly-budgeted television production that succeeds thanks to its sincerity and the likeability of its lead actors, with technical values are adequate (except for a couple of blips in the soundtrack near the end of the film) to support Garcia’s straightforward approach to storytelling. In fact, the ongoing story of RJ and Chris might be better suited to a television series, particularly since Garcia doesn’t seem to be interested in exploiting the visual possibilities of cinema. The pace is pleasantly relaxed, but at two hours Testament of Love seems overly long — there’s a natural ending about 15 minutes before the real one, and the film would also be stronger with the elimination of some minor characters and on-the-nose philosophizing.

Extras on the DVD include a making-of featurette, deleted scenes, a featurette and outtakes from The Falls, a photo gallery, and a Q&A session from the Portland Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. | Sarah Boslaugh

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