Writer/director Kevin O'Brien grew up in a conservative, evangelical Christian home where he was taught that they had exclusivity to the truth - a truth that they had a moral mandate to share. It was through that upbringing that O'Brien first encountered the "love the sinner, hate the sin" approach to the LGBTQ community, an approach he never questioned until life took him outside the bubble of that community and into the real world where he began to realize just how dangerous is and just how much he didn't know. He began to meet members of the LGBTQ community and found them to be some of the most loving, giving, and compassionate people he'd ever met.
O'Brien's film, At the End of the Day, is a film that radiates more love and compassion than one might ever expect from such a film that tackles a challenging subject yet does so in a way that is richly human, intellectually honest, and surprisingly respectful of both sides of the coin. The film centers around Dave Hopper (Stephen Shane Martin), a recently divorced man whose wife left him for another woman and who has now relocated to a small Christian college where he will be a guest psychology lecturer.
It's early into his semester that he encounters Nate (Chris Cavalier), a young man who quickly challenges his theological foundation with one simple question - "Why does God have gay people?"
Describing the question as "the issue of your generation," Dave responds with a half-hearted answer that convinces all of us that even he has his doubts. Still, he presses on.
Dave's boss, Dean Gordon Woodman (Tom Nowicki), a rather comical evil villain here, seems to sense something awry in Dave and recruits him to join a neighboring LGBTQ support group that is attempting to acquire some adjacent land in order to build a homeless shelter for LGBTQ youths.
It's a plan the Dean doesn't like, for no other reason than it conflicts with his own value system. He wants Dave to help stop it.
The odds are fairly good that you know at least partly where all of this is going, though O'Brien wisely avoids some paint-by-number resolutions and instead tosses in some authentic ones along the way. However, for a guy whose life is largely devoid of authenticity, passion, love and loyalty, it's probably not a surprise that what Dave doesn't find in his role at the college he begins to find as a member of this rather endearing support group.
The good news, as well, is that O'Brien avoids harsh attitudes throughout the even-keeled, gentle spirited film. Whereas so many films along this theme tend to demonize one side or the other, O'Brien avoids such lazy storytelling while remaining true to his own central ideals and his belief that "love" and not "love the sinner, hate the sin" is the real answer.
At the End of the Day is a good film that, just perhaps, tries overly hard to not prove to be offensive to just about anyone. There are moments in the film that hint at potential cinematic greatness, though it seems like at times O'Brien pulled back just a bit and perhaps realized that the film would be seen by both conservative Christians and members of the LGBTQ community. It's certainly not an egregious choice to make, but it does somewhat hinder both the film's humor and ultimate impact.
Yet, the film's ensemble cast is strong throughout with Stephen Shane Martin, in particular, turning in a performance that is grounded, honest, and refreshingly devoid of the usual histrionics found in this type of film. Danielle Sagona is an absolute gem as Alyssa, who facilitates the support group and yet harbors her own baggage along the way. Chris Cavalier gives the film much of its deep emotional resonance, taking a difficult role and making it feel richly human and deeply compelling.
Brandon D. Hyde's lensing is strong throughout, while original music by Christoffer Franzen perfectly companions the film's breezy, comfortable pace.
At the End of the Day continues to have some festival dates left and has proven to be quite popular on the indie fest circuit including prizes at Golden Door International Film Festival (Best LGBTQ Film), Tampa Bay International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (Audience Award) and multiple others. The film will be available on demand beginning February 26th and it's definitely a film that's worth your time.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic